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Route Running for Tight Ends: Combining Speed and Power

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    Sports Tips

Route Running for Tight Ends: Combining Speed and Power

In the modern game of football, the tight end position has evolved into one of the most versatile and crucial roles on the field. From making key blocks to catching touchdown passes, a tight end must wear many hats. One of the most vital skills for a tight end is route running. Combining size with speed to create separation can make a tight end nearly unstoppable. This article dives into techniques and tips that can help tight ends excel in route running.

Techniques for Effective Route Running

1. Leverage Your Size

Utilizing physicality is key for tight ends. Here's how you can leverage your size:

  • Boxing Out Defenders: Use your body as a shield. Similar to a basketball player, use your frame to keep defenders at a distance.
  • High-Pointing the Ball: Maximum reach is an advantage. Practice catching the ball at its highest point to outjump defenders.

2. Burst of Speed

Speed isn't just for wide receivers. Tight ends need to deliver a burst at critical moments:

  • Acceleration Off the Line: Explode off the line of scrimmage. Your first few steps should be powerful, pushing defenders back.
  • Speed Cuts: Practice making sharp cuts at full speed. A well-executed cut can leave defenders in the dust.

3. Deception Tactics

Creating separation often involves tricking the defender. Here's how:

  • Head Fakes: A quick fake with your head or shoulders can cause a defender to bite.
  • Changing Tempo: Varying your speed within the route can make it hard for defenders to predict your next move.

4. Route Precision

Crisp, precise routes can make all the difference:

  • Crisp Breaks: Make sure your breaks and cuts are sharp. A rounded route can give defenders time to react.
  • Timing with QB: Practice consistently with your quarterback to perfect the timing of routes.

5. Blocking to Catching Transition

Balancing blocking duties with route running:

  • Deception: Start blocking to sell the play, then release into your route.
  • Fluid Transition: Smoothly move from blocking stance to a receiving position to maintain speed and surprise.

Essential Routes for Tight Ends

Here's a table summarizing key routes that tight ends should master:

Route NameDescription
Flat RouteA quick route to the sideline, usually to catch short passes and gain yards after catch.
Out RouteA quick 5-10 yard route towards the sidelines, effective for securing first downs.
Corner RouteA deep route breaking toward the sideline after 10-15 yards, useful for big gains downfield.
Seam RouteA vertical route right up the middle, often between linebackers and safeties.
Drag RouteA shallow route across the field, great for picking up short yardage and creating space.
Post RouteA deep route breaking toward the goal post area, ideal for scoring opportunities.
Curl RouteA route where the tight end runs upfield then turns back towards the quarterback for a quick catch.

Coaching Wisdom for Aspiring Tight Ends

Focus on Fundamentals

Coaches need to instill the basics before anything else. Drilling the fundamentals like footwork and hand placement can go a long way in developing a reliable route runner.

Game Film Analysis

Analyzing game tape isn't just for quarterbacks. Tight ends should also study film to understand defensive strategies and to refine their techniques.

Individualized Drills

Tailor drills to individual players. Each tight end has unique strengths and weaknesses, and drills should be designed to develop their specific skills.

Mental Toughness

The mental aspect is just as crucial as physical prowess. Teach players to read defenses, anticipate moves, and stay mentally sharp throughout the game.


Route running for tight ends is a blend of art and science, combining the physical attributes of a lineman with the agility of a wide receiver. By leveraging size, speed, and precision, tight ends can create significant mismatches on the field. Coaches and players alike should focus on these techniques to make their tight end an offensive weapon.

Ready to take on the role of a versatile tight end? Practice these techniques, listen to your coaches, and always aim to improve your game. The perfect route is just a play away!