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Football 101: Five Wide Receivers



A former linebacker, 49ers radio color analyst Gary Plummer is well versed on the x's and o's of football.  Throughout the offseason he will break down many football schemes and concepts in these Football 101 segments which can also be seen on TV 49.  Enjoy this first installment on five wide receiver formations.**

As you've seen a lot of teams are going with 5 wide receivers, but in the case we'll be looking at you have 3 wide receivers, a tight end and a back. The reason for that is because now defenses keep either a base defense or a nickel (5 DBs) as opposed to going to a pure pass coverage defense which has six defensive backs.

The play we'll be looking at has the three wide receivers, a tight end in Vernon Davis and a running back DeShaun Foster. Obviously teams are trying to spread their opponent out vertically all across


the field. Each aspect of every route is important for the completion.

Focusing on the bottom of the field, there are a lot of combination routes and these guys work on them every day in practice. The combination on this play isn't between two receivers, but wide receiver Bryant Johnson running an 18-yard dig route and running back DeShaun Foster who's running a hook at 10 yards to try to freeze the defender underneath. That opens up things over the top.

Now why doesn't the safety not get involved? Well we see a guy at tight end who can run 4.4 in the 40-yard dash -- that's fast -- freeze the safety so he can't come and make a break on the play.


We'll continue to watch this from the end zone and what starts this whole play off is the hard count. The hard count by Shaun Hill causes not one, but two defenders to jump. There's no threat of the run, but we'll see in one of our other Football 101 segments why play action pass is so successful. This play is successful though thanks in part to Hill getting the defense to jump which gives a tremendous advantage to the offensive line.

The Bills blitz their middle linebacker and everybody on the offensive line picks up their guy one-on-one.  One of the guys on the line who is the Bob McKittrick award winner, center Eric Heitmann, picks up the blitzing linebacker. Shaun Hill has all the time he needs to throw the football. He's able to plant that back foot, step up and throw right in the window.

This really illustrates how important all these different routes are. If you freeze the tape and look at the defender who was on Foster, it opens things up across the middle for Johnson. Shaun Hill also shows a lot of anticipation. He throws this ball long before the break is even made.

People say, "What the heck do these guys do all day?" They're studying film, they understand what routes work against what coverages and it's the timing that allows this play to happen. And there you go, big completion for the 49ers.


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