Splinter is one of my favorite red zone passing plays. The primary reason for this is the quick slant route run by the top receiver at the flanker position. I run a lot of quick slant routes, as most of you no doubt have learned, but there's something special about this one. Normally I like slants that are angled 45 degrees or less from the line of scrimmage to be my go-to routes because the shallower the slant, the more often it gets open and the higher the percentage the pass becomes. The flip side of this coin is that the shallower slant routes tend to gain fewer yards when completed than their deeper, more streak-like siblings. The slant in splinter seems to have captured the best of both worlds, getting open often and quickly while running downfield with great YAC potential.

Spades - Splinter

While the slant makes a great choice for a 10 yard pass into the end zone, there are a few other routes to this play. The tight end and split end each run identical looking 5 yard square routes to the left, the TE heading outside and the SE inside. The effect of each of these routes is a bit different though. The TE works through pass rushing defensive lineman and possibly linebackers to open up in the slot, while the SE works head-to-head against cornerback technique. Each player creates very different matchup scenarios despite similar looking routes. These are explained in more detail in the read progression section below.

The play is rounded out, as many of my pass plays are, with a running back swing route. This particular instance is of the custom variety, its intent is to hit a particular spot just behind and to the outside of where the flanker slant and SE in routes cross. If all three routes are able to release cleanly this combination neatly cuts off any pursuit of the RB, springing him wide open on the right side for a short moment. In actual game situations things rarely unfold in such a pristine manner, but it still can help get the open down the sidelines. Of course, most of the time you'll be better off with the safe throw to the swing underneath, but it's always nice to think big, isn't it?

Player Assignments

Position Action
O-Line Pass Block
QB Dropback 2yd
TE 5yd Out
SE 5yd In
Flanker N9W4 (open)
FB Pass Block
RB N1E2-N2E2-N2E1-N4E1 (open)

See the Madden Playbook Guide for a description of these symbols.

Read Progression

  1. Flanker slant
  2. TE out
  3. SE in
  4. RB swing

Splinter is designed for quick execution so there is only one read for each route. The one liberty you might take with this progression is to take an extra peek or two towards the slant, because a slant can be thrown at any point without sacrificing precision or timing, and because it's probably the best route in the play but may not be open immediately. Regardless of whether you look to it late, the flanker quick slant is the first read for the play. I really like this throw against a linebacker blitz, but it works almost as well against basic zone and man coverages.

The next two looks come in quick succession, first left to the TE out, then right to the SE in. Although the SE is likely the faster of the two targets by a good margin, he is also much more likely to draw tight man or press coverage and should be given an extra moment to get into his route and make a hard cut to the inside. Not so much delicacy is required with the TE pass, which by the way is a great weapon against outside press coverage. The final read is the RB swing. This takes some practice because there are a lot of different ways to throw this pass depending on what the defense is doing. Against Cover 2 with pressing corners I like to hit this with a tight pass just inside the bump, not giving the CB enough time to react and get off the receiver to make a play on the ball. Against zone I also like this route underneath. Swings are usually good blitz busters, and this one can be too, but unlike a lot of routes this one should not be throw if the blitz comes from the right side (throwing into the blitz) because the sheer amount of traffic makes it risky. If the blitz is picked up well and you're feeling a bit lucky, a long bomb to the RB down the sideline can be a real killer. This can also work against man coverage, but the RB is more likely to just be singled on a safety against a blitz.




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