Football's Offensive Team: The Receivers

Wide receivers and tight ends are the principal players who catch passes in American football, although running backs also are used extensively in every passing offense. Receivers come in all sizes and shapes. They are tall, short, lean, fast, and quick. To excel as a receiver, a player must

  • Have nimble hands (hands that are very good at catching the ball).

  • Have the ability to concentrate under defensive duress.

  • Be courageous under fire and strong enough to withstand physical punishment.

Basic offenses have five possible receivers:

  • The two running backs.

  • The tight end. The tight end is known as the Y receiver.

  • The two wide receivers. The wide receivers are commonly referred to as X and Z receivers. The X receiver, or split end, normally aligns to the weak side of the formation, and the Z receiver, or flanker, aligns to the strength of the formation.

In many offenses, on passing downs, the tight end is replaced by another receiver. In this figure, the Y receiver is the one who replaces the tight end.

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The proper stance for a receiver

Receivers need to learn the proper stance to create acceleration off the line of scrimmage while also using their upper bodies to defend themselves from contact with defensive backs. The stand-up stance looks like this:

  • The receiver’s feet remain shoulder width apart and are positioned like they’re in the starting blocks — with his left foot near the line of scrimmage and his right foot back 18 inches.

  • With his shoulders square to the ground, he should lean forward just enough so that he can explode off the line when the ball is snapped. The receiver’s lean shouldn’t be exaggerated, though, or he may tip over.

A good receiver uses the same stance on every play because he doesn’t want to tip off the defense to whether the play is a run or a pass. Bad receivers line up lackadaisically on running plays.

Lining up receivers correctly

The receivers need to line up before a play:

  • One wide receiver, usually the split end, lines up on the line of scrimmage.

  • The other receiver, the flanker, must line up 1 yard behind the line of scrimmage.

A combination of seven offensive players must always be on the line of scrimmage prior to the ball being snapped. A smart receiver checks with the nearest official to make sure he’s lined up correctly.

The tight end and the split end never line up on the same side. If a receiver is aligned 15 to 18 yards away from the quarterback, he can’t hear the quarterback barking signals. Therefore, he must look down the line and move as soon as he sees the ball snapped.

Once off the line of scrimmage, a receiver should run toward either shoulder of a defensive back, forcing the defender to turn his shoulders perpendicular to the line of scrimmage to cover him. The receiver hopes to turn the defender in the direction that’s opposite of the one in which he intends to go.

How receivers catch the ball

Good receivers catch a football with their hands while their arms are extended away from their bodies. They never catch a football by cradling it in their shoulders or chest because the ball will frequently bounce off.

The best technique a receiver has for using his hands is to place one thumb behind the other while turning his hands so that the fingers of both hands face each other. He spreads his hands as wide as possible while keeping his thumbs together. Then he brings his hands face-high, like he’s looking through a tunnel.

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He wants the ball to come through that tunnel, and then he wants to trap it with his palms, thumbs, and fingers. This technique is called getting your eyes in line with the flight of the ball. If a ball is thrown below a receiver’s waist, he should turn his thumbs out and his little fingers should overlap. A receiver with good fundamentals will also keep his elbows together when catching a football, which adds power to his arms.

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