How To Build A Great Receiving Core

In today’s game, more and more teams are approaching the football season with a heavy-passing attack. Even at younger levels, we are seeing an aerial assault becoming the focal strategy of many offenses.

With this new trend comes a host of new challenges, both in creating a game plan and assembling the personnel to handle such an offense.

Throughout this article, we’ll take a look at the various types of receivers a team needs to be successful.

Possession Receiver

When you think of a possession receiver, you should envision a guy with reasonable size who can control opposing defensive backs and consistently pick up first downs. These receivers can also be counted on to move the chains on 3rd downs.

Possession receivers are not purely for deep burns or red zone targeting. Rather, they have sure hands and are consistent route runners. Building consistent hands is the best advice for any possession receiver.

Pro Examples: Hines Ward and Dwayne Bowe

Deep Threat Receiver

This receiver is someone that can stretch the field. They possess superior speed and are always a threat to get open over the top. While some of the effectiveness of the deep threat receiver is reliant on the quarterback’s ability to throw it deep with accuracy, you can always utilize a deep threat receiver with bubble screens as well.

In order to be most prepared for such a role, receivers should work on tracking the ball in the air over 30 yards and reeling it in.

Pro Examples: DeSean Jackson and Julio Jones

Here Brian Baldinger, former NFL player shows why the deep receiver is a great tool for any coach.

Source: Baldy’s Breakdown: Wide Receiver Seminar

Slot Receiver

Many teams are increasingly utilizing the skillsets of slot receivers. Unlike the possession and deep threat, who play on the outside, slot receivers play more inside and work across the field.

They normally don’t possess significant speed or a height advantage but do provide versatility. While they may not be burners, these players need to be quick and make short cuts fast. Don’t necessarily stress their 40 times, but focus rather on 10-yard intervals.

A slot receiver is usually covered by a safety or linebacker, so they can quickly create match-up problems for the opposition. Going back to the versatility aspect, slot receivers should be prepared to line up on many different areas of the field. Many coaches are even willing to place these slot receivers in the backfield, which can create further problems for the defense in coverage.

For players considering training for this position, I’d recommend coaching videos and watching tape of the guys below and keep close notice of their hips getting in and out of cuts.

Pro Examples: Wes Welker and Julian Edelman

Here Rob Liken, offensive coordinator / quarterbacks coach at Arizona State shows how it all starts with the verts.

Source: Rob Likens – WR getting the room right course


Due to the position they play, receivers are not always the most willing blockers. After all, they are on the field to make plays downfield and put points on the board.

However, for an offense to reach its full potential, the receivers must be capable blockers and help set up the run game. Showing effort in blocking for run plays will also quickly gain the appreciation of the coach. When a coach sees players in skill positions showing effort in the run game, they’re more likely to pick up extra snaps in the future.

Group Unity

Star wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals, Larry Fitzgerald, said “To be great, you have to outwork the man next to you.”

This statement has a direct correlation to the main points of this article. You can’t build a dominant receiving core with just one receiver. Unless you have the next Calvin Johnson, you are going to need to build a group of guys that are constantly competing for playing time.

Between the different types of receivers listed above, you also have a number of different personalities. As a coach, you can either make a positive out of this diversity or let it bring your whole team down.

It is important to make receiver drills an everyday competition. Make the receivers prove to you each practice and every game why they should be on the field come gameday. When this becomes the culture, you’ll see guys pushing each other and as a result, group unity will flourish. It’s not just another saying that “football’s a brotherhood.” There is a lot of truth to this and it’s a coach’s job to reel all of it in.

Pro Example: 2014 Denver Broncos (Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, and Wes Welker)

With this Broncos team, they were fortunate to have some dynamic playmakers that could fill multiple roles. Thomas had exceptional size at 6-3, 229, particularly for a possession receiver, but he also had the speed to get out over the top. Sanders possessed the quickness to get in-and-out of breaks in a hurry, as well as the speed needed to be a deep threat. Finally, possibly the king of the slot, Wes Welker was a genius when it came to working over defenses across the middle.

Moving the Chains

Each of these types of receivers is important for an offense to compete. They all have skill sets that can work in a complimentary fashion, thus frustrating defenses in a hurry.

And don’t forget the tight end in your passing attack!


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