Wide receivers align the furthest from the football. When the camera angle is tight you won’t always see them on the screen. The players at the wide receiver position are some of the fastest, most agile, fluid and graceful of all the athletes on the field. Wide receivers are the players who catch the passes from the quarterback.
Catching the football appears easy on the screen. It is very difficult to do on a consistent basis. The velocity the quarterback puts on the football can literally tear your skin. That is why receivers wear gloves even in the heat. Catching the football is critical to the position but before they can catch the ball they must be able to separate from the defender. Crisp routes with sharp breaks help them do that. The route they are to run is communicated to them in the huddle by the quarterback.
The number of plays that could be called in the huddle sometimes can be as many as 100. Routes are called patterns because they are tied into the routes of the other receivers creating a pattern. The receivers run short, medium, and deep routes. They can break to the outside of the field towards the sideline or run inside away from the sideline.
Often the quarterback will call a play designed for the receiver to catch the ball quickly and use his athletic ability to run after the catch. The wide receivers are covered most often by one defender. Some of the best receivers in the NFL will be covered by two and even three defenders. The receiver and the defender are often playing a one on one game away from the real chaos and action in the middle of the field. The area of the field they play in is commonly call “the island”. It’s called the island because it looks like the receiver and defender are alone in their area of the field.
The wide receivers do get involved in the action during a running play. On a running play the wide receivers become blockers and like all the blockers, push, impede or knock down defenders to give the ball carrier a path to gain more ground.
Receivers get most of the fans and media attention next to the quarterback. You’ll see them make spectacular catches and runs resulting in the longest and most exciting plays of the game. They don’t normally get credit for their toughness but they must be mentally and physically tough. They are recipients of some of the most violent, ferocious and vicious collisions. Teams are trending towards taller, stronger and more explosive athletes to play this position. It is not unusual to see wide receivers 6’3” to 6’5” and 230 pounds.
The wide receivers are definitely some of the most gifted athletes on the football field.
Learn more about position players and their responsibility in my book.