What Is a Wheel Route In Football?

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What Is a Wheel Route In American Football?

In football, a wheel route is a passing play where the receiver or running back runs a deep route down the field while the quarterback throws the ball to them. The name “wheel route” comes from the fact that the receiver looks like they are running in a circle around the defense.

This route is often used to beat zone defenses, as it allows the receiver to get behind the coverage and gives the quarterback a large target to throw to.

Who Runs The Route?

Wheel routes can be run by any position on the offense but are most commonly run by wide receivers and tight ends. Running backs may also be used in wheel routes if they have the speed and agility to beat the defenders. When a running back is used in a wheel route, it is usually from the shotgun formation to give them a head start on the play.

When To Use a Wheel Route?

Wheel routes are typically run against zone defenses, as they allow the receiver to get behind the coverage. However, they can also be effective against man defenses if the receiver has a significant speed advantage over their defender.

In either case, the key to running a successful wheel route is finding an open space in the defense for the quarterback to throw to.


The wheel route is great for getting the ball to your receiver in space. It allows them to run after the catch and pick up extra yards. The wheel route also forces the defense to respect the deep part of the field, which can open up other routes underneath.


1. The defense may be able to anticipate the play. If they see the offense lining up in a formation that suggests a wheel route is coming, they can adjust their coverage to be more effective against it.

2. Sometimes can be slow to develop. This means that the quarterback needs to have good patience and timing in order to give his receiver a chance to get open.

3. If the defense plays man-to-man coverage on the receivers, it can take away the space the receiver needs to run the route effectively.

4. The wheel route can be risky because it relies on a deep pass. The ball could be intercepted if the quarterback doesn’t have enough arm strength or accuracy.

How To Properly Execute The Wheel Route

When executing a wheel route in football, the receiver will typically line up outside the formation and run a deep route down the field. The quarterback will then throw a long pass to the receiver, who will catch it and turn upfield toward the end zone.

To ensure that the receiver is able to execute the route properly, they must first get a good release off the line of scrimmage. This means that they need to be able to beat their defender in one-on-one coverage. Once they step on their defender, they must maintain speed and run a sharp route toward the sideline.

As the receiver approaches the sideline, they need to make sure that they keep their body between the defender and the ball. This will give them a better chance of making the catch and staying in bounds. Once they have caught the ball, they need to turn upfield and run toward the end zone.

If executed properly, a wheel route can be a very effective way of moving the ball down the field and scoring points. However, it is important to make sure that the receiver can beat their defender off the line and run a sharp route. Otherwise, the play will likely not work as intended.