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How To Play Wide Receiver In Football

A wide receiver in football is one of the most exciting positions. The opportunity for big plays is endless when you play wide receiver.

This article will show you how to play wide receiver in football and things you can do to be a better wide receiver.

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Wide Receivers In Football

The wide receiver plays a huge role in the success of your team.

The ability to move the ball through the air has become a staple in most high school, college, and professional offenses.

Wide receivers are the key to creating an effective passing attack.

What Does A Wide Receiver Do In Football?

A wide receiver is an athlete that lines up away from the offensive line. Their primary job is to catch passes from the quarterback.

A wide receiver must be able to fight through contact at the line of scrimmage, establish his frame and bend around cornerbacks. He has to be able to run through tackles without losing his balance.

As a wide receiver, you need to have a good set of hands. You have to catch the ball and secure it in bad weather conditions.

The ability to read coverages is also essential in being a successful wide receiver. You have to adjust your route accordingly when the team shifts into zone coverage.

It’s also vital that you know how to block linebackers, safeties, cornerbacks on running plays and screen plays.

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Qualties In A Wide Receiver

Wide receivers must have a variety of physical qualities. These are crucial to playing the position effectively.

They need to run fast enough to get behind the defense and outrun them after the catch. Acceleration, agility, and quickness are also standard qualities of wide receivers.

They need excellent hands to make tough catches in traffic and poorly thrown balls. They have to have excellent hand-eye coordination to reach out for high, wide, or off-target passes.

Their body needs to be strong enough to take a beating from the bump and run coverage. They should have long-reaching arms to go up for high passes effectively.

Last, wide receivers need quick feet and balance to quickly get in and out of their cuts. Exceptional stamina is also another quality because they run a lot during games.

To play wide receiver effectively, you must be able to catch the ball with your hands, not your body.

Using your hands is also helpful in fending off tacklers after you catch the ball.

Basic Techniques Of A Wide Receiver

These basic techniques used by every wide receiver are the following:

  1. Stance & Start
  2. Releases
  3. Securing the ball in traffic
  4. Running in open space

Stance & Start

The first thing a wide receiver must do is run off the line of scrimmage and separate himself from the player covering them.

Wide receivers need to have a plethora of moves at the line of scrimmage to beat corners who are pressing them.

When you have separation at the line of scrimmage, you can effectively use your speed to get behind the defense.

We recommend reading this article about stemming and stacking and different releases at the line of scrimmage.


Releases are used to get the defensive back moving in one direction so that you can go the other direction.

The wide receiver then breaks at a 45-degree angle (or vertical), making his move after his defender commits to his fake route.

This technique is used to get behind the second line of defense. It creates separation from your defender because he’s already committed to defending your fake route.

To use this technique effectively, you have to use the same footwork you would use if running a normal route, just without running them.

Securing The Ball In Traffic

One of the most challenging things for wide receivers is to secure the ball while going up for a pass in traffic.

When several players are around you as the ball comes down, it can be challenging to secure the football.

You must be able to hold onto the football while simultaneously fending off defenders.

To play wide receiver effectively, you need strong hands and wrists to secure the ball.

A wide receiver has to catch the football and navigate through defenders downfield. This is essential in making plays over the middle executed on dig routes and slants.

Running In Open Space

A wide receiver must run with the ball after he catches it. A wide receiver can make a big play if he can outrun the defense after catching the football.

He must react quickly and shift direction while accelerating through the secondary.

To run effectively, you need balance and body control. You must have a good forward lean as you run upfield.

If you get tackled, your legs need to drive forward for extra speed, then finish by falling forward.

Types of Routes

There are many different routes that a wide receiver has to run to get open and catch the football. He needs to run all of these routes with precision and consistency to play the position effectively.

Here are the types of routes that a wide receiver has to run:

  1. Go Route – The go-route is a deep route usually reserved for wide receivers who have speed and quickness. It is used when a team wants to get behind the defense, typically on third down. It’s one of the most common down-field pass plays made during a game because it’s effective at moving the chains.
  2. Hitch Route – The hitch route is a short distanced route. It involves taking a few steps towards the line of scrimmage and then sticking your foot in the ground and stopping quickly. This causes your defender to be out of position and then you break back outside with enough separation to catch a pass before you’re tackled by another defender.
  3. Curl Route – The curl route is used to get open by running downfield, turning around and catching an intermediate pass. This is usually executed from an outside position, where you can get away from your defender because he can’t run as fast as you can straight up field, then breaking back to the quarterback.
  4. Corner Route – Also known as a “flag” route, this route requires the wide receiver to run as fast as they can up field. Once they hit 7-10 yards, break at a 45 degree toward the sideline.
  5. Flat Route – The flat route is a short route that involves the wide receiver running toward the sideline at 2-3 yards. This pass is typically quick and allows the wide receiver to gain 4-5 yards.
  6. Out Route – The out routes is a horizontal pattern run by a receiver that breaks at a 90 degree angle away from the line of scrimmage. It’s used to get open against man coverage because it allows you to use your speed and create separation as you run downfield.

These are just some of the routes a wide receiver will run. To learn more about running routes, watch our video below.

Blocking As A Wide Receiver

Blocking is one of the things that separates a tremendous wide receiver from a good one. If a wide receiver consistently blocks his defender, he will get more playing time and often see the football.

This can make him better because of the opportunities to run with the football and make plays downfield.

Blocking is a skill that anyone can learn with some determination and desire.

It’s not hard to learn how to block, but it will take some effort on your part to master it.

To block effectively, you must sustain your block on a defender until the play is over or until someone takes his place.

Keep Learning

Learn more about wide receivers by reading the articles below.

Learn To Stem & Stack At Wide Receiver

What Is a Slot Receiver Or A Slot Corner?

How to Beat Press Coverage In Football

Why Do Wide Receivers Point At The Sideline?

What Does A Tight End Do In Football?

Why Do Wide Receivers Wear Gloves?

Playing wide receiver requires speed and the ability to catch the football. If you possess these qualities, we recommend trying out for this position.

If you want to learn more about the running back position, we recommend checking out our list of courses here.

If you want to learn more about football in general, check out our learning center for more!