Breaking down the basics of the 'Dagger' route

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Let’s break down one of the top passing concepts in the NFL: the “Dagger.” A route you will see pop up every Sunday to work the deep 15-yard dig (square-in) vs. Cover 1 (man-free), Cover 2 (Tampa 2) and Cover 3 (3-deep, 4-under). Check out the route concept up on the chalkboard and then we will discuss some basic coaching points.

Personnel: Posse (3 WR, 1 TE, 1 RB)
Formation: 2x2 “Doubles”
Concept: Dagger


Inside the numbers: The combination inside of the numbers (X, Y) is very similar to Hi-Lo “Opposite.” The TE (Y) will run the underneath crosser (Lo) with the No.1 WR (X) to the open (weak) side of the formation breaking back to the middle of the field on the dig (Hi) at a depth of 15-yards.

Clear-out seam route: This is the key to the “Dagger." With “Posse” personnel on the field, the No.2 WR (W) to the open side will run the inside vertical seam to clear out the middle of the field for the X on the dig route (the primary read on the play).

Z receiver: Can run a variety of routes. Here I am sending him down the field on the 9 (fade) route. However, you can work the slant, comeback, curl, etc. Main thing is to keep the closed side CB (Cover 1, Cover 3) or deep half safety (Cover 2) occupied and out of a position to drive to the middle of the field.

Why it works against…

Cover 1: The open side CB is taught to play with outside leverage. Run off the FS in the middle of the field with the seam (W) and use an inside breaking concept (X) to work away from the defender’s leverage.

Cover 2: In the Tampa 2 scheme, the Mike Backer will open his hips to the passing strength carry any inside vertical concept (W). The 2-deep safety can drive on the dig, but that’s not his play to make. With the Mike removed, the X can sit down in the middle of the field.

Cover 3: Again, the W is going to run off the FS. The difference is the underneath zone droppers (“middle hook” defenders). If they don’t drop with enough depth (or jump the Y on the underneath crosser), the X can find a soft hole inside of the numbers.

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