What Is A Wheel Route In Football? What You Should Know In 2023

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Have you ever seen the running backs catching a pass from the sideline when the linebackers are trailing behind them? The commentator will then mention the wheel route, but you don’t know what it means. 

So, what is a wheel route in football? How does it affect the gameplay? Why do they call it a wheel route, anyway? I will give you simple explanations.

Let’s jump straight in!

What Is A Wheel Route In Football?

The wheel route is one of football’s most common and effective passing routes. This route is usually handled by the running backs, but sometimes it’s also designed for wide receivers. 

The primary goal of a wheel route is to utilize the superior speed of route runners over the opposing defenders. The defenders must run on a lateral route and make quick turns to catch up with the receivers.  

Contrary to many people’s beliefs, the wheel route is surprisingly simple, and you don’t have to perform any deception or double moves. It’s just all about unpredictability, timing, and speed.

Though it may seem rude, the wheel route is very effective when the receivers on your team can outperform defenders with their faster speed. Therefore, there’s a slang for this practice called the “jerk route.” 

When a receiver turns over and moves fast from “flat” to “go,” his movement pattern looks like a wheel’s outside, hence the name of this practice. 

What Is The Purpose Of A Wheel Route

The primary purpose of a wheel route is to trick the opposing defenders through tactical movements. The defender usually predicts the route that the receiver is going to take. 

Therefore a quick turnover and taking a different running route bring the surprise element and give you a great advantage.

A wheel route is quite similar to a combination route as it involves two routes. 

The running backs frequently handle the wheel routes, but sometimes wide receivers and tight ends can take this responsibility. Its magic will deliver in a blitz second of hesitation from defenders.

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Wheel Route Resorts To Speed And Flexibility.

How Does The Wheel Route Work?

The flat is the two areas on the two sides of the defensive line. This area lay around the lineup position of wide receivers, also known as the “shoot route.” 

In the wheel route, the running backs quickly move towards the upper sideline before cutting upfield. The running backs will then run the route without hesitation and at the fastest speed. 

In other words, a wheel route can be interpreted as the transformation from a flat to a deep route. If a wide receiver is taking the wheel route, the opposing defensive back likely has an equal speed with him. 

Though it may sound quite complicated, a wheel route is not hard to carry out. However, you have to possess some athletic advantages, especially speed and flexibility in movement. 

This short demonstration video will help you visualize how a wheel route works in real life. 

How to Run the Wheel Route

The wheel route taker will start moving to the flat route. When his running is finished, the taker will look back to observe if the quarterback is approaching the sideline. 

This looking back is crucial because it tricks the defender into thinking that you’re gonna throw a pass to the defender. It’s easy to predict because making a pass behind the scrimmage line is a safer option. 

You will quickly turn the corner and make a route straight down the field at this blitz-second moment. The defender didn’t expect this move because he was preparing for a throw. 

He may freeze for a blitz or lag in reaction to your move. As a result, you will have plenty of space to run and make a threatening attack. 

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The Wheel Route Is Simple To Perform.


What Are The Names Of The Routes In Football?

The “route” word is combined with one following number, from 1 to 8, to indicate different route positions on the field. For example, route one is called “flat,” which is an out-breaking and primary route in football. 

You can encounter many other common routes like 2 – Slant, 3 – comeback, 4 – Curl, or 7 – corner. 

What is a wheel route in football

There Are Various Routes On A Football Field. 

What Are The 4 Routes In Football?

Route 4, or Curl, lies in the opposite position of the comeback when a receiver breaks back inside the field. Therefore, the Curl and Comeback routes are interchangeable in many situations. 

What’s A Wheel Route In The NFL?

In NFL, a wheel route indicates a passing pattern where the player pretends to run a flat or swing route in a circling movement. However, he will break vertically to surprise the defender. 

Which Football Route Is Best?

Each route brings the highest impact on a specific situation, so it’s not reasonable to point out the most effective one. For instance, the Out route indicates a quick attack into the field’s flat area outside the hash. 

What Is A Skinny Post Route In Football?

The Skinny Post Route is a more sophisticated version of the regular post pattern. In this tactic, the receivers will cut inside the field from a shallower angle to find a hole in deeper coverage. 

Final Thoughts

A wheel route is a chain of running patterns where the player rushes to the flat route and pretends to make a throw to trick the opposing defender.  

When the defender buys into the fake out, you suddenly turn over and cut upside in his surprise. The wheel route is very effective when you have a higher running speed than other defensive players. 

I hope that this explanation can satisfy your curiosity. If you are interested in other football techniques, consider visiting Scott Fujita to learn more!

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