Football Passing Progressions

What are Passing Progressions in Football?

Passing progressions in football are a series of reads that the quarterback uses to find an open receiver. By progressing from their first-choice to last-choice receiver, the quarterback can react to the defense and how the play unfolds with the greatest chance of finding an open player.

How Does a Quarterback Go Through Their Progressions?

Before the play begins, a quarterback knows where they want to throw the ball. That can be based on a matchup advantage or the route that they are running. Each play will have a designated primary receiver that they want to throw the ball to. If the primary receiver isn’t open, then they progress down their list to the second receiver (secondary option). That continues through all the receivers. The quarterback also has the safety of checkdown options to prevent taking a sack in the event no receiver gets open.

Not only do progressions determine what player to throw to, but the quarterback must also decide if it’s a play action, quick throw, long throw, or anything in between. When a team has a plan and knows where they want to throw the ball, their offense becomes a lot more efficient.

Primary and Secondary Receiver

The primary receiver is the first receiver the quarterback will look at; this is their first read. If the wide receiver is open, the quarterback will throw them the ball. The secondary receiver is the second choice for a pass to come their way. Their route may not be as appealing as the primary receiver’s, but they are still most likely in a spot to gain a good chunk of yards.

Safety Valve

If no receiver gets open, it is important to have a backup route. That’s where the safety valve comes in, with a player running a route close to the quarterback. They give the quarterback a last-resort option a couple of yards downfield.