The Stick Concept: A Complete Guide to this Versatile Pass Play – Throw Deep Publishing



The Stick Concept: A Complete Guide to this Versatile Pass Play

Posted by Throw Deep Publishing Staff on

If you’re familiar with the West Coast Offense, or the Air Raid, you’ve likely heard of the stick concept. This concept is designed for the QB to make quick decisions, and get the ball out quickly.

Being both adaptable to different levels of football, and possessing many different variations, offenses in a variety of forms use this concept in the passing game. Stick is especially a must-have in offenses with a talented tight end, who as you’ll see, is the primary throw on this play with the freedom to adjust his route. 

Trips Flex Stick Concept

Overview & Purpose of the Concept

This is a “quick-game” concept that is designed for the quarterback to be able to get the ball out of his hands in a short amount of time. With 5 eligible receivers that release downfield, the quarterback has built-in answers to find a completion to either side of the formation. The “stick” route runner in this concept tends to become the primary target, as he has multiple ways he can run his route depending on the coverage that the defense shows. 

Similar to the mesh concept, this is a play that coaches love against just about anything.

Coverages it Does Well Against

Man- The QB can look to trust his TE running out of his stick cut, or work backside to his X receiver on the slant pattern. 

Cover 3- The QB will identify and read the flat defender. Slant/Arrow is also a great option against 1-high defense. 

Cover 4- The QB will identify and read the flat defender.

Coverages it Doesn’t Do Well Against

Cover 2- In a cover 2 defense, the CB becomes the flat defender post-snap. If the QB is unaware, he may be triggered into throwing the arrow route, as the apex LB will become the hook player. The CB has a chance to undercut this route in this situation. 

The “hole shot” throw becomes a legitimate option, as the Z receiver will look to tempo his route along the sideline, giving the QB the chance to beat the safety with a throw on a line. This throw is not one offenses at lower levels like to rely on, as it requires a QB to have both a strong arm and great anticipation. While stick can be executed against Cover 2, coordinators will look to call it against other coverages, and many would prefer something like the smash concept.

Coach George Pachucy explains in this video how he likes to run the stick concept, and why it does well against just about every form of defense there is:

You can watch Coach George Pachucy's entire presentation HERE. 

Route Coaching Points vs Man and Zone

Trips Flex Stick Concept

Vs Man Coverage-

TE- Best release vertically for 5 yards, at the top of your route, run away from man coverage on a speed-out path. 

TB- Arrow route with a landmark of 3 yards. Get eyes back to the QB quickly. 

Slot Receiver- Expand arrow route with urgency at a landmark of 3 yards. Primary job is to stretch the defense horizontally. 

X Receiver- Find a way to win your 3-step slant versus both off the LOS. Burst out of cut with urgency while getting eyes to the QB.

Z Receiver- Mandatory outside release go route with no wasted movement. Primary job is to pull coverage. 

Vs Zone Coverage-

TE- Burst vertically for 5 yards, at the top of your route, turn and settle in the zone void. 

TB- Arrow route with a landmark of 3 yards. Get eyes back to the QB quickly. 

Slot Receiver- Expand arrow route with urgency at a landmark of 3 yards. Primary job is to stretch the defense horizontally. 

X Receiver- 3-step slant pattern.

Z Receiver- Mandatory outside release go route with no wasted movement. Expect the football versus a cover 2 look. 

Quarterback Coaching Points and Progression

The quarterback’s job pre-snap is to identify the flat defender and throw off of his movement post-snap. In both pictures, this would be the NS (Nickel-Sam). If the Nickel’s movement post-snap honors the TE, or he fails to widen, the QB can swing it out to the arrow route. If the nickel widens with the arrow route, the QB should transition to throw the stick route. The go route from the Z receiver is a pre-snap matchup look for the QB, but becomes a legitimate option against cover 2 as mentioned earlier. 

In addition, the slant/arrow combination is an answer against potential weak-side blitz, or if the quarterback feels that he has a favorable one on one matchup with his X receiver on the slant route. 

Variations

Variation 1- 2x2 Condensed Formation Stick 

Great offensive coordinators look to run their base plays often, while changing up the look to opposing defenses. Out of a 2x2 condensed formation, the core of the concept remains the same. The slot receivers become responsible to stretch the flat with an arrow route, while the outside receivers run the stick route based on the coverage and leverage of the defense.

2x2 Compressed Stick Concept

The QB will read this concept outside-in, looking from the arrow route, to the stick route. If the flat defender fails to gain width, the QB will throw it to the arrow route runner.

If the flat defender widens with the arrow route, the QB will look to accurately locate a throw to the stick route runner. If the quarterback is unable to make a clear read, his RB will become available for a check-down throw underneath LB level. 

Variation 2- Trips Flex Sticko

The stick concept is often a core quick-game concept for teams, because of this, offensive coordinators like to have a counter when defenses adjust. “Double moves” are great for this, where receivers sell a base route hoping to bait the defense, before making a second move out of it, typically looking to become available vertically down the field. 

Trips Flex Sticko Concept

In this “Sticko” look, the TE will take two steps out of his stick route, before turning and showing over LB level. He is the primary throw for the quarterback. Coming in behind this route is a delayed slant route from the slot receiver, who quickly sells an arrow route path before working underneath, filling the void that the LB vacates looking to keep up with the TE downfield.

The quarterback also has a sluggo route on the backside to take advantage of if he likes the matchup. As coordinators evaluate their tendencies, wrinkles like this are a great way to attack defenses prepared to stop your base concepts. 

More Stick Concept Variations 

Coach Mike Budziszewski of Carroll University explains four different ways he likes to run not only the Stick route, but also some gadget plays off of them. 

Follow along as he uses film and diagrams to explain more...

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