Aside from catching the football, it’s a wide receiver’s top priority. And how do you get open on a consistent basis? With your route running. The best route runners are able to create separation on a variety of patterns regardless of their own size, speed or strength. But becoming an elite route runner is easier said than done. Route running is an art form, a chaotic cat-and-mouse game in which a single well-placed step can be the difference between suffocating coverage or getting wide open.
Chad Johnson is widely regarded as one of the best route runners in NFL history. While a ton of technique and detail goes into becoming a masterful runner of routes, Johnson believes it ultimately boils down to efficiency.
“(Elite route running is) the ability to get from point A to point B with no wasted movement. No wasted movement in getting in and out of the breaks, getting the ball, and transitioning back to top speed right away. He doesn’t have to be the fastest in the league—you don’t have to be the fastest in the league. But understanding what the defensive back is trying to take away from you, (avoiding) that and getting from point A to point B within three seconds. There’s a time clock in the NFL, three seconds. Getting from point A to point B as fast as possible without getting touched, because they’re trying to divert you, that’s it,” Johnson told STACK at the recent AFFL pro training camp. “The basic fundamentals of getting from point A to point B as fast as possible and catching the ball. That’s what the game is.”
Shortly after our interview with Johnson, he expounded on the topic via Twitter:
To eliminate wasted movement at the top of your routes, you must improve your ability to decelerate. Deceleration is an often-overlooked skill when it comes to sports performance, but being able to stop efficiently will help you routinely roast defensive backs with your route running. Straight line speed will only take you so far, but the best route runners are able to stop more efficiently and change directions quicker than the man lined up across from them.
Photo Credit: Scott Cunningham/Getty Images