A curl route is one of the most common patterns in a receiver’s route tree. Successfully executing the play requires a wideout to be a sharp route runner with excellent footwork (not to mention having good hands for making the catch).
The curl route, also known as a hitch or a hook, is when a receiver runs downfield, quickly reverses course and turns back in the direction of the quarterback. The goal of this sudden redirect is to shed your defender and catch the oncoming pass.
For professional wide receiver Nelson Agholor, the fundamentals of a good curl route are built from the ground up — starting with a receiver’s footwork.
“One of the mistakes a lot of people do when they’re running curl routes is they kind of sit in a chair, but they don’t absorb the force when they’re sinking down,” Agholor says.
To help correct that mistake, Agholor recommends a drill designed to emphasize a wideout’s footwork.
PERFECTING A CRISP CURL ROUTE — THE DRILL
To start the exercise to help perfect your route running, Agholor recommends setting up four plastic cones within a 15-yard range.
With your left foot forward on the line of scrimmage, take a trigger step with your right foot, followed by a deceleration step with your left foot and end with a right-foot plant step.
Next, reset your stance and repeat the drill between the second and third cones.
To complete the drill, repeat the same steps one final time between the third and fourth cones. Once you’ve reached the final cone, curl back toward the line of scrimmage to receive a pass from your quarterback.
PUT YOUR BEST FOOT FORWARD
Receivers practicing the drill should also want to devote extra attention to their plant foot. Agholor notes that the plant foot is important because it serves as the route-running compass on the field.
“You talk about pigeon-toeing that foot, it’s going to point to where you’re going and where you’re going to open up,” he says.
Agholor also stresses the importance of knowing your angles when running receiver routes. Doing so can not only aid in precision, but also help separate you from the competition.
“There’s obviously the vertical race to a defensive back, but then there’s the race at the top of the route,” Agholor says. “That’s how separation in this league is won.”
Before you can run your route, you’ll want to get a good release at the line of scrimmage. Learn how to improve your acceleration at the line with this drill from Agholor.