A complete pass concept needs to have routes that attack different levels of the field, develop at different phases of the play, stress the defense in more than one way, and provide a consistent and systematic progression for the quarterback while providing a possible matchup advantage and definitely providing a schematic advantage that will stress one defender and make him wrong. This scheme must be partnered with a protection concept that blocks the blitz or beats it with a hot.

One of the most comprehensive concepts that achieves all of the aforementioned criteria is the shallow-cross concept. Adaptable to any one or two back formation this concept gets at least four receivers into the secondary and creatives a vertical stress, a horizontal stress, a built-in hot route, and a safe check down that is fairly easy to teach and install and execute.

The bottom line is that it makes your QB right every time.

The route progression and terminology illustrated is credited to Dub Maddox and the Quarterback Academy. See QuarterbackAcademy.com for products and materials on the R4 System of quarterback progression implemented in this concept.












You can do a handful of different things with the periphery routes in this concept, but the meat of the play is the shallow route crossing the field into the dig route to stress the #2 defender. I like to run the play with the following routes:

  • #1 playside receiver – 7 step skinny post (just fly by the corner back and get up the seam)
  • #2 playside receiver – 7 step dig/square in behind the #2 defender between #2 and #3 defenders. Adjustment- against middle of field open (MOFO) with a two-high safety look, we want to attack the middle, so this dig converts to a post.
  • #2 backside receiver – shallow route aimed at far hash 4 yards downfield. Just scream across the field and get to this spot. Adjustment- this route can be the single receiver if you’re in a two- back set, or the outside receiver if you bunch or stack. Just make sure he’s tight enough to get where he needs to go.
  • #1 backside receiver – fade. This route can be almost anything that will help the overall concept. We don’t hit it unless we see something presnap, and I don’t want the QB thinking about it as part of the progression which is the reason I don’t run him as an intermediate route like a curl or dig or comeback. The fade turns corner’s hips and moves him to the widest edge of the field so we get best space for RAC if we throw post or dig, or check down to the back.
  • RB – backside blitz pick up then check route (could be a Texas route, flat, turn whatever your preference to fill the vacated void created by the zone dropping LB or out-leverage a man-to-man LB)

The quarterback will use 5-step mechanics from under center, and a 3-step in gun. We want the post first. Against a single-high safety, read the corner first for leverage. If we get the man match up we want, throw the post on the fifth step without a hitch. Ball should be out in 2.1 seconds. If the corner has strong inside leverage or bails back to the post, the QB’s eyes go directly to the #2 defender to read the lateral stress the Shallow and Dig place on him.

Versus MOFO: read the playside safety. The Dig will convert to a post, and if the post gets inside of the safety, throw it. If the safety compresses the inside post, hit the outside post. The footwork is the same for both routes.

We will use 5-step with a hitch when we progress to this read. If the #2 defender carries the Dig, hitch up and hit the Shallow. If the #2 drops off the Dig to wait on the Shallow, hitch up and stick it on the Dig. Either route, the ball should be out in 2.3 seconds.

If the #2 drops off the Dig to take the Shallow, and the #3 defender widens enough to the Dig to take it away, QB resets his feet to the backside to find his RB. Either RB is engaged in pass pro on the blitz, he is covered by the LB, or he is open in the vacated space. Assume he’s open and get ready to get the ball out. However, if you see him engaged or covered, pull the ball down and escape through the backside B gap which is opened from the Tackle kicking upfield with the outside rush, and open at the second level since the LB is engaged with the RB. If QB escapes, he should be crossing the line of scrimmage at 3.1 seconds.

Oh Snap!

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If you’re going to design a play concept, give your QB answers so he can be successful. The Shallow concept has a built in answer for everything, and you can adapt and install this in any one or two back offense. If you run it four times, you may get four different receivers involved. QBs get confidence in the scheme, understand how it leverages the defense, and can then do what you want them to do, execute, move the chains, and score touchdowns.