The 4 Verticals passing concept is the staple that has driven Air Raid and Run and Shoot offenses. The majority of their other concepts are direct answers for them to get back to the Four Verticals play.The essence of the 4 Verts concept is to put four receiving threats downfield and stretch the defense horizontally. It’s key that all receivers know their role in this concept as each route plays into another.
4 Verticals Passing Concept
The best way to think of the receiver routes is by their landmarks. In this concept there are four landmarks that the receivers want to get to. The first zone is just outside of the numbers on the left side of the field. The second zone is just inside of the High School hashes or just outside of the college hash marks to the left. The third landmark is directly inside of the High School Hash marks on the right side and the last landmark is just outside of the numbers on the right side of the field.These receivers want to be at their landmark or “inside their vertical tube” by the time they have gotten 10-12 yards down the field. Once they have reached this landmark they should continue downfield.
By splitting the field into these four landmarks, or tubes, the offense is forcing the defense to cover the whole width of the field. As the receivers continue to go downfield they increase the area that the defenders must cover and increase the chance that a seam will open.
It’s important that the receivers know these landmarks because they will be expected to get there regardless of their formation or alignment. This means that the #1 receiver on the left (normally referred to as X) will be responsible for getting to the first landmark. The next receiver inside of him, regardless of if he is on the left or right side of the ball, is responsible for getting to the #2 landmark. The receiver who is to the right of him is then responsible for getting to the #3 landmark and finally the receiver that is furthest to the right is responsible for getting to the #4 landmark.
There are a variety of things that can be done with the running back. Most teams prefer to keep him in to help with pass protection. Due to the longer nature of the play, this tends to be the best, or at least most popular, option. Another option is to have the player check release. In this case the running back will stay in to ensure that the defense does not send a 6th player. If the defense sends a 6th man the running back will block him. If not he will release into the flats or into the void that opens when the linebackers take their pass drops.
The best part of the 4 Verticals passing concept is that these landmarks will remain the same regardless of where the receivers line up. All the players need to do is count the receivers on the line from left to right in order to determine which landmark they are going to. This creates a very versatile passing concept with minimum install time from multiple formations. While a few variations are covered in the diagram below the different combinations truly are endless.
The 4 Verticals passing concept is a staple of almost all passing attacks. This route is effective vs. most defenses but can especially punish defense that decide to roll down a safety (normally a Cover 3). As the inside receivers get to their landmarks it becomes a simple read for the QB to either throw to the whichever side the Safety doesn’t go to.
(See Also) Post Wheel Passing Concept