Trips Formation Football (4 Best Plays Out of Trips)

By Coach Martin | Football Offense


The Trips formation is one of the most popular formations in football.

A lot of teams use it in the modern game because it allows offenses to both spread the field and create confusion + chaos.

Below I'll explain what trips formation is, why it's so popular, and then we'll break down 4 of the best plays to run out of Trips formation.

What is Trips Formation?

Trips Formation has 3 wide receivers stacked on the same side of the field.

This can cause a lot of confusion for the opposition team.

Offenses can run it out of the shotgun formation or with the quarterback under center -- though most teams prefer to run it out of shotgun today.

In addition, most offenses will also have another wide receiver lined up to the opposite side of the formation all by himself. Doing so forces the defense to put at least one cornerback to that side of the field.

Why Trips Formation Works

Trips Formation is great at creating mismatches.

First, it forces the defense to either go with the Nickel formation, with five defensive backs on the field; or have a linebacker cover a receiver.

Next, it forces the defense to either:

1. Put four of those players to the side of the field with Trips -- which leaves the other receiver one-on-one.

2. Or put a safety over top of the lone receiver -- which puts all three receivers on the Trips side to be one-on-one.

And Trips can get even more confusing...

Well-designed plays have the receivers on the Trips side running in different directions, which forces the defenders to sometimes cross in front of each other.

It's easy for defenders to lose their man against Trips or to even bump into each other, creating plenty of open spaces for receivers.

Best Trips Formation Plays

Play #1: Smash


Smash is a play in which the two inside receivers will attack the deep part of the field, while the two outside receivers will run short routes.

This is a great play as it attacks the defense on multiple levels, and creates different looks on each side of the field.

Against zone, Smash usually sees the outside receivers having only one defender on them, with the safeties helping out on the deep routes.

This means that the outside receivers will have a lot of open space if they can shake that first defender.

On this play, the lone receiver on the left and the outside receiver on the right will run inside Hitch routes. The H will run a Deep Post toward the middle of the field, while the Z will run a Deep Corner toward the near sideline.

Play #2: Box


Box is a play that looks to cause confusion in the middle of the field.

By running three out of the four routes toward the middle, there will be many defenders running in front of each other and to the same place on the field.

It's easy for receivers to get lost among all these bodies, and then come out wide open as a result.

By having the two outside routes attack the deep area of the field, it leaves a lot of room for the underneath routes to run after the catch.

The X will run a Deep Post toward the middle of the field, while the Y will run a Go route down the right sideline. 

The H will run a Shallow Drag from right to left, with the Z running a Dig/In route about 10 yards downfield.

Play #3: Skinny Post Attack


The Skinny Post Attack is great at attacking the defense at three different depths on the Trips side of the field -- all toward the middle of the field.

This often causes defenders to have to make a choice as to which receiver to cover -- especially the safeties.

Since the X on the outside will run a Deep Fade down the left sideline, he's often matched up one-on-one and could find himself free deep.

The X will run that Deep Fade down the left sideline.

On the Trips side, the H will run a Skinny Post, the Z will run a Deep Hitch, and the Y will run a Deep Post.

Play #4: Scissors


Scissors if the perfect example of how the Trips formation can use routes that cross each other to cause confusion.

In this play, the two receivers to the right in Trips will run mirroring routes that will cross each other at some point.

This will hopefully cause defenders to either run into each other, stumble trying to avoid each other, or just plain lose their coverage man.

Meanwhile, the two other receivers will run clear-out routes to take advantage of what should be a lot of free space.

The Y will run a Deep Post while the Z will run a Deep Corner.

The H will run a Shallow Drag while the X will run a straight Go route.



Many teams in today's game use the Trips formation, in some form, because of the many advantages it has.

While most offenses that use Trips will do so out of shotgun, it is a formation quarterbacks can use under center, too.

It causes a lot of confusion among the defense and creates great mismatches at just about every level.

What's more, it also helps to isolate one great receiver on your team, allowing him to often match up one-on-one against a defender.

Leave a Comment:

Leave a Comment: