NSS Home > X-and-O > Offense-XO > The Shallow Route

The air raid offense has had such influence on modern football at all levels and so we wanted to do a breakdown series over some of the air raid concepts that has changed the game so much. Regardless of what kinda of spread offense you run, you will probably see some of the Hal Mumme/Mike Leach Iowa Wesleyan influence in some version of some of the Air Raid pass concepts. The first one I am going to examine is my personal favorite: “the Shallow”.

Lets first look at what started it (the Hal Mumme version) and then I will look at the expansion of it and how guys like Dana Holgorsen run it. This route is one of the most difficult concepts the air raid has to offer and has become a staple of so many offenses regardless of style due to the versatility of the route regardless of coverage.

(Above) shows the standard H Shallow concept.  The call in the true air raid offense is 90 H Shallow. 

(Above) This would be would be 90 X. 

Now I want you to notice that the opposite slot or in this case the Y is running the dig every time and the Z is running the outside release fade. Also notice that the H in X shallow gets to the to the same land mark that X got to in the H shallow. The rule is opposite inside receiver runs the dig with whomever runs the Shallow (Y in this concept). Also, Z runs a fade or with some like (Leach) this would be a Post over the Dig which creates the Triangle read I will talk about next. 

That is why this is a concept route combination because you just make the call and tag who it is and each player immediately knows what to run. That is the major difference in this concept verses a route tree route. The where you can make one call and everyone immediately knows where to go. You can call 90 and tag any of 4 wide receivers. So the shallow can come from anyone and anywhere.

The Shallow route and the triangle read


(credit to cougcenter.com for the pictures editing done by Shawn Caldwell)

The Shallow route is ran at the depth of the heals of the Defensive Line. This puts pressure on the defense because of the depth of the route, and the complementary route with the first receiver inside on the opposite side running a 10 yard dig. This creates a triangle read for the quarterback. He looks 1 (Shallow) 2 (Dig) 3(Post) Every read is in his line of sight.  The Shallow is where he is going on this picture. Because of the drop of the Linebackers he will take the shallow in this read.

If the Linebackers were to pressure or jump the shallow he would throw the dig in the hole vacated by the linebacker. He can also go to his 3rd read over the top because of the F/S drop and he the corner has 1 (bottom of the picture) pushing vertical. This is also the reason that the shallow is being taken here because with the coverage he knows the flat is going to be vacated so this is going to be a pretty sizable gain.

This coverage is (122) Man to man to the field playing 10 on 10 to the rest of the field and you see cover 2 to the rest of the field.  So because of this coverage this is the perfect call into what they are doing. 

The 3 X 1 Shallow tagged with verticals

(Above) is a diagram of something you can add to the former concept of verticals.  (Dana Holgerson) started playing with this at West Virginia and it has became a very hard concept to stop. In Mike Leach’s version of the air raid the Shallow is an important concept to what he has always done but he only runs it out of a 2 X 2 formation. Holgerson started tweaking somethings to tag the shallow with other concepts and against the trace coverage that a lot of people are playing verses 3 X 1 formations now its hard to cover, if you tag this shallow with the vertical concept. On my diagram I have added something to make it even more dynamic (I can’t say this isn’t being used by Holgerson) but I have added the swing/wheel to the back. If you get this Solo coverage or “trace” you will Will backer on 2(T) to the boundary which is a matchup you should expect to win.

Mike has to kick to Strong side B gap because he becomes the C gap fitter in case of a run to relieve some of the pressure on the F/S because of the coverage. This 3 X 1 concept is tough verses this coverage and also shows the versatility of the Shallow concept and being able to tag it with many different looks.

The Shallow out of a condensed formation.

(Above) This condensed formation creates you natural High/Lows on zone coverages and you condense the field and stress the Defense outside because they can’t adjust as much when you have been spreading them out and then you come back with a condensed formation it stresses the reads. Also with the T being 3 to the strong side he actually can check release in this full slide blocking scheme and if you see later on in the game that they are going man on these condensed formations you can tag a wheel with the back to the field and he will be very hard to pic up through the traffic here. 

This attack is very sound especially in short yardage you condense the formation the defense thinks run you probably get an extra run fitter to the box and make sure with the back inserted and protect the Q C gap to C gap and you are probably going to get a great short yardage play here that will catch the defense off guard.


This shows how one route combination can be hide and changed up to get you what you want as an OC and you can dictate the defense gives you but manipulating formations and tags with other concepts. However, this isn’t something you just do when you get to the field, this is something you do on the weekend when you can your staff watch film and find the weaknesses of the defense and attack it.  So if you do a good job of scheming and understanding what the defense is going to give you and the you in game planning, just add tempo and you will dictate what the D coordinator can give you on that series you are on the field. #fastbreakfootball