An intended receiver is the player who is meant to be thrown the ball on a passing play. There is only one intended receiver in each play, though if that player is covered the quarterback will begin to look at his other options.
The intended receiver can also be the player that the quarterback has already thrown the ball to. In the NFL rulebook, the term intended receiver refers to a player that has had the ball thrown to him but has not yet caught the ball.
Typically this term is used when playcalling or strategizing against a defense. When passing the ball the play will be built around the intended receiver’s ability to get open.
Oftentimes other receivers will run routes in order to move defenders ensuring that the intended receiver will have an easy time getting open.
How intended receivers affect the play
Now that you know what an intended receiver is we are going to go into a little more detail and explain how the intended receivers can affect the rest of the player’s responsibilities on the play.
Other receivers routes
The intended receivers route is the most important route in any passing play and typically determines where the other receivers are going to run.
Say for example a team wants to take a deep shot down the field. If there is a safety overtop this pass will be difficult to complete.
Oftentimes a receiver on the other side of the field will run deep and pull the safety in so that the intended receiver can catch their pass.
Additionally, the other receiving routes will often be based on being on the same side of the field as the intended receiver. If the first read is covered quarterbacks will have to look to other receivers to move the ball downfield.
To make his job easier receiving routes will often be run to the same side of the field at different depths than the wide receiver.
This way the quarterback will not have to turn his head in order to find another receiver.
Another way the intended receiver can affect the other players’ responsibilities on the field is via pass protection.
The protection given to the quarterback will be based on how much time is needed to complete his throw. For a slant route, the offensive lineman will only have to protect for a second before the quarterback releases the ball.
But on a deep post route for example the lineman will need to buy the quarterback sometime for the route to develop.
This is why linemen will usually be aware of what throws the quarterback is intending to make before the play.
The moving of the quarterback’s eyes throughout the play are another interesting way in which intended receivers affect the game.
As a quarterback staring at your intended receiver for the whole play is a rookie mistake. The defenses will key into the player that is being thrown the ball and will be quick to break it up.
In order to complete the throw, the quarterback will often look the opposite way of the wide receiver while waiting for his route to develop.
This can allow the receiver to get open and potentially move the safety to the wrong side of the field.
That is all on intended receivers in football, to learn more see our guides to what is an eligible receiver or what is a deep ball receiver.