The more the quarterback is able to conceptualize routes, the more efficient he will be as a passer.
By Jeff DiSandro
Offensive Coordinator & Quarterbacks Coach
Bishop Kenny High School (FL)
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I am going to talk about some of the basics of our passing game. I like to think that our approach with the passing game and pass installation is just one way of “doing simple better.” As I work through our pass game structures, I will also include some specific comments on game planning pertaining to the concepts and ideas being discussed. I am going to intentionally stay away from QB fundamentals discussion for the focus of the article. I want to thank X&O Labs for being a tremendous coaching resource and I know I have learned a ton from other coaches over the past few years.
To start, we are going to break our passing game down into four major types of read families. Our major read categories are progression reads (P), defender keys (K), matchups (M) and combinations (P + 1). All playbook plays and potential additions in the passing game will fit into one of these read families. Each week our staff will spend time analyzing each these structures and how those read families will influence the defense we see (for our advantage). We work hard and drill the QB on the differences between each family and thus how our plays are designed to attack the defense. At times we may seem very multiple; especially in the passing game, but we are not. Every play we have fits into a family of QB read types and once he (the QB) identifies the nature of the family and what we are trying to do he can have confidence and mental command with his processing week to week. I am very picky and about the QB reads in the passing game. As a coach, if I am not 100% certain on what we are trying to accomplish and how it fits into the above-mentioned families then how can I expect the players to be confident? We do build and add as the season goes on but as coaches, we must be certain that how we present plays and our plan to the kids (and the QB) and it must neatly fit into the above schemas we are creating in the passing game. We always talk about putting players in a position to succeed and this is one of the ways we do that regarding throwing the football.
Progression reads (P)
The first family we start training the QB with is our progressions reads. These are pure progressions and the QB will learn to work through a primary, secondary and check down route (1-2-3). With almost all these concepts, we are trying to build some type of 3 man passing triangle. We group all our progressions as either weak triangles, strong triangles or middle triangles. Grouping our progression reads this way helps me arrange my practice and film study teaching time and be efficient and organized with my teaching methods. We like our passing triangles no matter the coverage or defensive structure. These are calls that we like to think of as “coverage proof.” This just means that we don’t look for a specific cover 3 or cover 2 looks to work a certain progression. Through the game planning, the coaching staff will decide how we want to flood the field or what specific triangles we want to use. Using formations and different motions, we are always trying to find ways to put our 3 on their 2 or our 3 on their 3 with some type of winning leverage. Again, we can deploy a variety of progression reads and the QB can feel confident in being diverse so long as we communicate the family and get him to understand how this play influences the defense.
QB progression is sit, curl, flat. This is a strong triangle.
Game plan thoughts would be how do you want to flood the field (formations?). No matter how many ways you choose to do it the family the basics don’t change for the QB. What personnel groups and formations will utilize your best players and put them in primary or secondary spots in the route concept? For example, will you see middle blitz in a certain area of the field, and can you work the middle sit to an explosive athlete in that situation? That could require you to move an athlete around a little, but the basics and nature of the play don’t change at all.
One of the big things with the QB in the progression read family is for him to avoid locking into a wide receiver during the play. We work hard on repping the QB and his eyes and we want to create good habits of field awareness in the progression passing game. One of the drills I use for progression reading is shown below. We do a lot with the drill. Not only is this a good way for the QB to develop the ability to move through progressions and create some situational awareness but it is also a good way for me, as the coach, to teach the defensive coverage reactions and how the weeks opponent will match our concepts. It is the QB’s job to evaluate those spots (or a phrase I use is do you want to buy this land) and throw the football into the open grass. As mentioned above the QB cannot lock into a WR. A lot of the interceptions that happen on progression reads can be traced back to locking onto a WR in the progression and losing that awareness - thus not feeling/seeing a defender that eventually can make a play on a throw. All the QB footwork is tied into the progression, meaning he always has rhythm, hitch 1 or hitch 2 with the internal clock in his head.
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- The pass concepts that Coach DiSandro groups into “Defender Keys,” and how he trains his quarterbacks to make the right read.
- The pass concepts that Coach DiSandro groups into “Matchups,” and how he trains his quarterbacks to make the right read.
- The pass concepts that Coach DiSandro groups into “Progression Reads Plus One,” and how he trains his quarterbacks to make the right read.
- How he teaches coverage identification to his quarterback.
- The drill work Coach DiSandro and his staff will use to train their quarterbacks on these progressions.
- Plus, video of all these concepts.
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Specifically, regarding QB play, I heard a coach not too long ago talk about teaching upper body, lower body and mind and with this article, I tried to lay out the very basic and fundamental process we use to teach the QB’s thought process and how that fits into our overall pass game structure. There are many ways to approach some of the same fundamental issues in football, but it is important to have a plan and to strive to be the best at communicating and teaching that plan to the players and coaches. Again, I want to thank X&O Labs for the opportunity to write this article on the passing game and the structure we use to teach it. Also, I am thankful to be able to work with a tremendous group of coaches at Bishop Kenny, we have an incredible staff that does a great job with the kids and they make it easy to put plans into play. I wish all the coaches the best of luck in their off-season pursuits to grow in this great profession.
Meet Coach DiSandro: Jeff DiSandro is the offensive coordinator coach at Bishop Kenny High School in Jacksonville, FL. Jeff has been a special teams coordinator, assistant head coach, offensive coordinator and has coached every position on the offensive side of the ball in his 14-year coaching career. For eleven years he coached at Division 2, 3 and NAIA levels.