How to be a Great Receiver

By Coach Ron Raymond of Capital QB’s

Revised: January 7th, 2023

I wrote this article several years ago and thought it would be a great refresher for quarterbacks and receivers to review, so they are on the same page come practice and/or game day.

A good knowledge of these fundamental rules and expectations will give players an idea of the coaching points they should reinforce and emphasize every time they take the field.

Listed below are some of the mental aspect’s receivers should focus when playing the position:

  1. Have daily goals and objectives to be a great receiver. Work to improve one area of your game each practice.
  2. A receiver must have confidence in their abilities to be a great receiver. As a coach reinforce this point to your players.
  3. Being a great practice receiver will elevate your game as a great playmaker during games. Remember, when you are great in practice, it will force your defensive backs to be great in practice as well.
  4. Make a great catch in practice and in games; always remember; if you can touch it, you can catch it. Do it enough and it will become routine.
ecole de receveur

4 Golden Rules of the Best Receivers

This is the order in which receivers should be evaluated.

  1. Hands (concentration and poise)
  2. Toughness (blocking and the great ones will catch it in a crowd)
  3. Quickness
  4. Speed

Hands – It takes great concentration and poise to be a great receiver. There’s an old saying receiver coaches ask their players all time. Do you catch the football with your eyes or with your hands? If they say with their hands, ask them to close their eyes and then throw them the ball. The great Jerry Rice use to work with his dad who was a brick mason, and he was quoted of saying; “My brother and I, we had developed this technique where you throw the bricks up, they were separated, and I was snatching them in the air. So, the myth about me learning to catch footballs from catching bricks, that’s where it came from.”

Speed – It is an asset, but, not the most important factor. The receiver must explode off the line of scrimmage and force the defensive back to turn their hips under 12 yards. (This may vary according to type of play called).

Quickness and acceleration – Receivers must be able to escape the hard corner quickly and accelerate up field to push the safety deep and create separation between him and the corner.

Toughness – Hit someone on every play when possible, depending on the play call of course. Do not avoid contact, set the “Seed of Toughness” early against your DB! Receivers need to build a reputation as players who are always looking to hit, stalk, crack-back (legally), or block anyone in their breathing vicinity. A defensive back should not feel comfortable with you in his zone.


wide receiver

A receiver must want to be a great one. Like anything else it takes hard work and commitment to be GREAT!

Here are 4 fundamental rules in catching a football:
1. See
2. Catch
3. Tuck
4. Cover

Furthermore, here are other basic receiver fundamentals players should work on in practice or during off season training.

  1. Breaks and cuts must be under control. Be an athlete.
  2. When running routes – snap your head and shoulders around quickly. Be ready for the early throw.
  3. Attack the ball aggressively on underthrows and high balls. Prevent the interception. Have this mindset, if you cannot get it, the defender won’t either. Basically, turn into a DB!
  4. Always see the alignment of the defensive back defending you and attack their leverage. Know the angle you will use to attack the defender.

Catching the Football

Once you’ve made the catch, work on your “YAC” yards, which means “Yards after catch”. Make sure you tuck it away and gain yardage without fumbling. Receivers must be fearless and have a conviction to catch the ball when they are targeted.

receiver tips
Catching the Football

Again, always remember the four (4) basic rules are (1) See, (2) Catch, (3) Tuck, and (4) Run.

Catching the football begins with the eyes – concentrate on the ball by focusing on the speed of the spin (see the dot on the end of the ball). A receiver must watch the ball until it is tucked into the armpit, with the point of the ball covered by the hand (Eagle Claw).

Always try to catch the ball with the thumbs and forefingers touching; this is the surest position.

The “little fingers in” position can be used for low (below the waist) or deep passes, and when in traffic across the middle, catching the ball against the body can be helpful.

However, on deep routes, if the receiver can turn back toward the passer, the thumb and forefinger position is better. Cushion the ball as it is received, into the body. This forces the catch to be made in the hands and allows the ball to be tucked away quicker.

Once the ball is tucked away, the receiver becomes a runner. A receiver must always turn up field after the catch. Do not run back toward the L.O.S. or turn to use fakes to gain ground.

Listed below are additional guidelines as to what is expected from a receiver:

1. Have a daily plan, goal, or objective. Work to improve one (1) area of your game each practice. Have a mindset of wanting to be a great receiver. Like anything else, it takes hard work and dedication.

2. Everyday Drills (EDD’s): Ball Drills [drops, flips, globetrotter]; eye hand coordinator – Make it a habit to catch 100 footballs a day during off season training and in practice.

3.  Do fingertip push-ups 10 to 15 before and after practice.

4. Catch everything thrown to you. Make a great catch! Do it enough and it will become routine in the game.

5.  Be knowledgeable in coverages and conversion (reads) routes. Know how the defense thinks.

6. The backside receiver must always be alert in the passing game. Run a full speed route or protect the integrity of the play. Think about the integrity of the play, you will be thankful when you catch the ball and the back side receivers are making sure you have a chance to score or get a first down.

7. Breaks and cuts must be under control. Be an Athlete.

8. Be ready for the early throw. Point out possible blitzing defenders with an “alert” call prior to the snap.

9. Always run the proper depth on your routes.

10. Use the sidelines to help control the clock. Remember, the objective is to score.

Scramble Rules

The quarterback must be taught to stay within the pocket and use one-step avoidance to find his line-of-sight. However, there are times when they are forced from the pocket running parallel to or toward the line of scrimmage (never retreating). When the quarterback leaves the pocket, these are the basic rules that the receiver must follow:

quarterback training
Quarterback Scramble Rules

Outside Receivers
If they are on opposite sides, the receiver on the side of the quarterback must run to the deep third (1/3) on that side; whereas the receiver on the opposite side of where the quarterback is forced to, must work for an open area through the middle of the field at a depth of about fifteen (15) yards coming towards the quarterback.

If they are on the same side, the receiver who was on the shorter route must run to the deep third (1/3) on that side, and the deeper route must work back toward the quarterback three (3) yards from the sideline.

Inside Receivers
The inside receiver will always work back toward the line of scrimmage to the side of the quarterback is forced to, attempting to create a visual, clear lane between themselves and the quarterback. If the quarterback runs with the ball, they must be able to block chasing defenders.

Middle Receiver, in a 3-Receiver Set or Backside Slot Receiver
If a quarterback is forced to them, then work parallel to the line of scrimmage (at patterns depth) between the sideline and hash marks. If the quarterback turns up field to run the ball, then be prepared to block defenders allowing the quarterback to get to the sideline, i.e., turn toward the middle of the field to block.

If the quarterback is forced opposite their alignment or route, then run up the middle of the field keeping separation from the receiver running in the deep third (1/3).

Running Backs
Running Backs work their regular pattern depth and flow with the quarterback, underneath the support. If the quarterback turns up field to run the ball, then be prepared to block defenders allowing the quarterback to get to the sideline, i.e., turn toward the middle of the field to block.

Regardless of the play called the rules stay consistent. Nobody puts their hand up and waves to the quarterback.

The quarterback can see the field better than anybody – let him make the decision!

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