NEW This Week: The Air Force Option Offense - CLICK HERE

Football's Drive Concept: The Complete Guide

Posted by Throw Deep Publishing Staff on

The Drive concept has been lighting up defenses for decades in football, and most teams from high school to the NFL run some version of it.

Let's talk about why.

When you hear the word “drive” in terms of the pass game, it is a tag/term that tells two receivers their responsibilities within the design of a given play. The first route in this combination is a 10-12 yard basic route (essentially an in-cut if you aren’t familiar with the term). Moving in behind this, is a 3-4 yard shallow crossing route from another wide receiver trailing underneath of LB level.

This 2-man combination can be deployed in a heavy variety of pass game concepts, and possesses route adjustments that allow it to find success against many coverages and looks the defense may show. 

Drive Concept vs 2 High Defense

Overview & Purpose of the Concept

The drive concept creates a natural “triangle read” for the QB, and does a great job in stressing LB level players in coverage. This concept has the flexibility to be both the primary read and secondary read within offensive play design, serving a variety of purposes for an offense.

This concept is very similar to the shallow cross concept, which features a short and medium depth crossing routes coming from opposite sides of the formation. This time however, they are coming from the same side, and the route from the tight end position is designed to create an extra rub for the defender trailing the underneath route. 

Coverages it Does Well Against

Man- The TE and slot receiver stay on the move in this situation, which becomes advantageous for the offense, as LB level players should struggle to keep up. 

Cover 4- While the post isn’t the focus in this play design, the basic-post combination naturally puts the field safety in a bind in this situation. If the QB recognizes a low safety honoring the TE, giving the Z receiver a chance down the football field possesses big play potential.

If not, the routes of the X and Z receiver are likely to pull 2 defenders with them, giving a numbers advantage for the QB to transition to the drive combination. 

Coverages it Doesn’t Do Well Against

Cover 2 and Cover 3- Both of these coverages introduce 4 or 5 “low” players defending the underneath portions of the field. The RB, TE and slot WR become outnumbered in this given scenario as they look to become available for the QB. As we’ve discussed, both the slot and TE will look to sit their routes down, but it will become much more difficult to generate big plays in these scenarios.

If you're looking for a better way to attack cover 3, you may want to look at something like the four verts concept, or even the mesh concept, which is designed to have answers against heavy underneath zone. 

Route Coaching Points vs Man and Zone

vs Man

TE- Basic route. Landmark is at 10-12 yards. Be physical and avoid re-route off of the LOS, stay on the move against man coverage. 

TB- Check pass protection responsibilities, release wide on flare route. 

Slot Receiver- Shallow crossing route. Landmark is at 3-4 yards. Stay on the move against man coverage. 

X Receiver- Mandatory outside release go route

Z Receiver- Post route. 

Trips Formation Drive Concept vs 1 High

vs Zone-

TE- Basic route. Landmark is at 10-12 yards. Avoid re-route, sit in open voids of zone coverage.

TB- Check pass protection responsibilities, release wide on flare route. 

Slot Receiver- Shallow crossing route. Landmark is at 3-4 yards. Once zone coverage is identified, sit your route down 3 yards outside of the tackle box. 

X Receiver- Mandatory outside release go route. 

Z Receiver- Post route. 

Quarterback Coaching Points and Progression

The QB is taught to “peek” the post route pre-snap. This throw becomes a legitimate option if the QB identifies cover 4, or a 1 on 1 matchup that he likes. Once the quarterback determines that he doesn’t feel the post is the ideal throw, he can proceed to read the drive concept in the following progression post-snap below. 


1) Go Route (X WR)

2) Shallow Cross (Slot WR)

3) Basic (TE)

4) Check-down (RB)

With the X receiver typically being the most talented receiver in the offense, it is imperative the QB analyzes whether or not he is being left on an island with a CB of the opposing defense. Once the QB moves away from the X WR to the drive combination working into his line of vision, he must recognize quickly whether the defense is in man or zone coverage. If they are in man, his slot receiver and TE will stay on the move, which is ideal. If they are in zone, the QB must be prepared to locate a throw into the voids of zone coverage, as both the slot and TE will look to sit in an open window. As a last resort, the QB can dump it down the RB in the opposite flat on a flare route.


Variation 1-

As it’s been mentioned, the drive concept is great against man coverage, as it allows the slot receiver to become available on the move. Pairing drive with a bunch formation is a great way to expose man coverage. Creating natural “picks” and “rubs” is a great way for the offense to find completions in the passing game. Whether or not the defense ends up playing man or not in this look, sorting out the releases of the bunched receivers is tough, and creates potential avenues for all 3 of these receivers to run free.

Bunch Formation Drive Concept

Both the corner route and go route in this design are pre-snap decisions depending on what the QB identifies. Post-snap, with any uncertainty, the QB can rely on his triangle read as usual, moving from the slot receiver, to the TE, and finally the RB.

Variation 2-

Empty Drive Concept Post-Wheel

The drive concept is great to attach on the backside of a variety of pass-game schemes, as it gives the QB a quick throw to go to against blitz, as well as a reliable outlet as the play progresses. Here, the QB is primarily looking to throw the post-wheel combination. If the QB has any hesitation making a read down the field, he can transition to the drive combination, working in his vision from the right side of the formation.

Want more?

Check out our collection of football scheme books.