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The next skill that is important to posses to be a good NFL wide receiver is the ability to run precise routes. One is hard pressed to find an individual who makes it in the NFL based on talent alone.
Even the great Randy Moss has had to refine his game to include more than the post and fly routes. Speed can only last you so long and route running allows you to gain separation if you lack top-end speed, to make the right moves in the two-minute drill and to build a connection with your quarterback.
The best route runners in the NFL in my opinion are Torry Holt, Reggie Wayne, Greg Jennings, TJ Houshmandzadeh and Terrell Owens. Holt and Wayne run the best “straight line” routes as they run them the exact way they’re drawn on paper.
Perhaps they learned this from mentors Marvin Harrison and Isaac Bruce who did the same thing.
TJ Houshmandzadeh and Terell Owens on the other hand run their routes with such aggression that it’s nearly impossible to run alongside them unless you’re a linebacker.
Furthermore you’d be hard-pressed to find a person who can run every route in the tree as often as they do as both of them run the in and short post routes more than the rest of the league. Additional to this is that few corners can jam them.
Finally there is Greg Jennings who runs routes “sloppily” in that he doesn’t run them in the “straight line” fashion, but has the best body movement in the league at running routes.
Route running is as physical as it as mental and Jennings possesses a trait that few receivers do; the ability to change direction immediately and cut off the defender. What this allows him to do is make any cut in any route and prevent the defender from undercutting the route by using his body as a shield while running the route.
So which one of these guys runs the best routes? I personally am a fan of cutting off defenders with your route running. Unfortunately I am also a fan of “straight line” route running.
In the end I feel that the latter is the better of the two and that Reggie Wayne’s youth and good knees gives him the edge over Torry Holt for our receiver’s route running skills.
Youngsters to watch because of their impeccable route running are Eddie Royal, Jordy Nelson and Donnie Avery.