By Zach Dunn, USA Football

Slant-Flat has become synonymous with the passing game at all levels of football. It is a simple, easy read for the Quarterback that is designed to get the ball out of his hands quickly and into the hands of a skill player. Today, we will talk about Slant-Flat with an “over the ball” route.

The concept is known as Dragon Over. Dragon refers to slant-flat, while Over refers to the “over the ball” route by the tight end.

This is a common concept that has been used for many decades. Like the Spacing concept, it’s another way to flood the defense with five underneath options.

To the right, the No. 1 wide receiver is running a three-step slant. The No. 2 receiver – the tight end – is running the “over the ball” route. He is running his route at 6 yards depth and will sit over the ball. Hence the name for the route, over the ball. The No. 3 receiver – the offset running back – is running the flat route. He has no protection responsibility and is running to the flats.

To the left, the offense is running the Dragon concept, just like to the right side with the No. 1 wide receiver and the running back.

As you can see in the diagram, the defense is in a one-high shell again. Pre-snap, the quarterback is not entirely sure if he’s going to get man coverage or Cover 3, but he knows he’s getting one of the two.

The quarterback’s read always starts with the “over the ball” route. That’s his No. 1 option. The ball will often times not go there, but it’s important that his read starts there because that tells him where to take his eyes to next.

If the defense spot drops and doesn’t cover the “over the ball” route, the quarterback will take his three-step drop and throw the ball to him.

If the defense is pattern matching the route, whether that be through Cover 1 Rat or Cover 3, the quarterback is going to read the “squeeze” of the two inside defenders. Whichever inside defender – the hook/curl defenders in Cover 3 – squeezes the “over the ball” route, the quarterback will take his eyes to that side.

So, in the diagram above, if No. 44 on the defense squeezes and matches the “over the ball” route, the quarterback will now take his eyes to the Dragon concept to his left. This allows the quarterback to read the curl/flat defender for his next throw without a hook/curl defender getting in his throwing window.

If No. 55 matches the “over the ball” route, then the quarterback will take his eyes to the Dragon concept to his right and read the curl/flat defender for his throw without a hook/curl defender getting in his window.

In the clip below, the defense is not in Cover 3, but they are actually playing Cover 1 Rat. The quarterback’s reads stay the same nonetheless.

Above with the defense in man coverage, the corners are locked up man-to-man on the No. 1 receivers. No. 23 on defense is in man coverage on No. 13 on the offense. No. 26 on the defense is playing man coverage on the tight end (No. 82), while the two inside linebackers funnel the running back (No. 45).

Whichever way the running back releases, that linebacker will take him man-to-man while the other linebacker becomes the “rat in the hole.”

On this play, the running back releases on the flat route so the linebacker (No. 55) takes him man-to-man. This leaves the other linebacker as the “rat.”

When the tight end’s “over the ball” route comes inside, the rat should match that route and the defender (No. 26) covering the tight end should become the new “rat.” This would put him in position to make a play on the slant to the right side.

Therefore, it’s important to read the squeeze of the two inside defenders. Once the quarterback sees the inside defender (No. 44) match the “over the ball” route, he should now get his eyes to the left to read the curl/flat defender on the Dragon concept.

The defense messes this up, and the defender over the tight end (No. 26) follows the route inside and doesn’t fall off as the new “rat.”

The quarterback takes his three-step drop and completes the slant.

This article appears in the October 2019 edition of FNF Coaches.

About the author

Dan Guttenplan