Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Going deep with the Shallow Cross

The Shallow Cross series has always been a staple of the Air Raid offense. When we first installed the series, it was basically a high-low concept on the linebackers. It was good for a 10-15 yard gain by either hitting the Dig or Shallow Cross. There was very little vertical threat, even though there are two vertical routes packaged in the play (Fade and a Post). I have heard the architects of the Air Raid say that the Fade or Post deserve little more than a "peek" from the QB, and the real focus was on the Shallow/Dig combination.

Last summer, I purchased From Headset to Helmet: Coaching the R4 Expert System from Coach Dub Maddox and Coach Darin Slack. Quite simply, this book made our offense exponentially more explosive, starting with the Shallow Cross Series.

No matter what offense you coach, I would highly recommend this book. It helped me see the passing game in an entirely different light, and gave my QBs a decision-making process to follow that is consistent and easy-to-understand. (Note: If you are an opponent of ours, don't waste your time... It really won't help you much.)

When I speak with other Air Raid coaches about the Shallow series, they struggle with how to coach or teach the deep throws to the fade or post. I was in the same boat until a year ago. I told my QB to "peek" at the fade, but warned him that "he better be open if he is going to throw it!" I had very little confidence in our QBs making that throw, which of course meant the QB was never going to go deep. The R4 system has simplified the decision-making process, and it allows us to take downfield shots when the defense is giving it to us.

Why we like the Shallow Cross:
  • Vertical and horizontal stretch on the defense: We want to make the defense cover the entire field, and the Shallow forces the defense to defend sideline-to-sideline, and vertically downfield.
  • Versatility: It is good play versus any coverage, man or zone. It is also good on virtually any down and distance. 
  • Big play capabilities: A year ago before I read the R4 book, we had only five "explosive" plays of 30 yards or more. This year, after reading the book, we had 25. That is a huge improvement, and many of those explosive plays came on the Shallow Cross. 
  • Easy throws to our playmakers in space: You don't have to have a huge arm to throw this concept if you know what the defense is doing and how to attack it. 
We always run Shallow out of 2x2, tagging either of our inside receivers (T or Y) on the Shallow. Here are the rules for the play:

To understand the big-play capabilities, you must understand the concept of "Cap" and "Uncapped" from the R4 book. I don't want to give away the secret sauce, so I would recommend getting the book to fully understand what those concepts mean. Simply put, it helps your QB quickly decide if he can make deep throws or not. Here is a presentation that explains each of the reads with the idea of "Cap":

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Note about the film: We were fortunate to have a 6'10 receiver at Z that will play basketball at Kentucky next year. That helped. However, you can see that our QB was confident in taking deep shots because of the "Capped/Uncapped" principle. In fact, we only threw to the Shallow route once all year.

What other wrinkles do you have that help you make the Shallow a successful route? Feel free to ask any questions below.


  1. Very nice post... Lately, it seems like the R4 book has been everywhere I've looked with nothing but unadulterated praise for it.

    Guess I'm about to log on to Amazon.com and make the purchase. Thanks man. I really enjoy the blog.

  2. Coach, fantastic stuff. Very proud of the guys, they did great all year.

    Thanks for posting this!

  3. Hi Coach, Big BLue Fan here. You must be refering to Willie Cauley. loking forward to adding him to the Big Blue Nation. #BBN. Wish he could help UK out in football.

  4. Informative post with great supporting video.
    In the R4 book they have the Post and Dig coming from the same side, you have them coming from opposite sides. What do you see as the pros and cons to both ways and do you run both?


  5. Thank you all for the comments. I appreciate the feedback.

    @Seth - I can't recommend the book highly enough. It is well worth your money.

    @Todd - You are getting a great one at Kentucky. He is a special athlete, but even more important he is a great person. He would do great things in football, but I think Coach Calipari might object!

    @CoachZ - I like having the fade outside release the corner opposite of the Shallow so that we can get the corner to turn his eyes to the outside. If we ran a post, then the corner would be looking inside and see the shallow coming right at him. Coach Maddox has had a ton of success with the Shallow going towards the Post, so it will work either way.