Linebacker Drills: Ultimate Guide

  

Linebacker Blitz Drills: Bull Rush Technique and Philosophy

The Bull Rush is the easiest of the three linebacker blitz skills to master and is taught first because the other two moves should be based off of the Bull Rush move. The bull rush is used by engaging the blocker and driving him directly backwards into the quarterback. I only allow edge rushers to use a bull rush on a running back that has stepped up to block them. The Bull Rush allows the edge rusher a two-way go, meaning he can play the blocker either inside or outside based on whether the quarterback steps up, or rolls out.

The idea behind the Bull Rush is to be lower than your opponent, so as to gain leverage and be able to drive the blocker backwards and collapse the pocket. If your edge rusher plays too high the result is a stalemate and the offense wins that round. However, teach your rusher, that things are not over if a stalemate has occurred. I teach to if this happens get the eyes on the quarterback and when his arm is moving forward get both hands up to block the throwing lanes.
defensive drills linebacker drills

Linebacker Blitz Drills: Rip Move Technique and Philosophy

The Rip move starts off just like the Bull Rush in that the rusher engages the blocker in an attempt to drive the blocker back and collapse the pocket. However, after this engagement has occurred, the linebacker blitzing will give a hard push with the outside hand in an attempt to lift the blocker’s outside shoulder.

Once this lift is achieved, the opposite hand, or inside hand, of the rusher will release the blocker and the shoulder will dip downward to the ground. I call this “grabbing grass” and teach the rusher to visualize himself attempting to pick the grass as he does this move. This visualization helps the rusher lower the shoulder, and thereby lower the surface area that the blocker has to engage. This lower surface area results in the rusher being able to “slip by” the blocker to the outside.

Once the inside hip of the rusher is past the blocker’s outside the hip, the rusher’s inside arm is pulled forward, cocked and then rammed backwards into the kidney area of the blocker. No, this is not an attempt to hurt the blocker, but this little technique helps clear the blocker’s legs which may be used to trip the rusher. Once past the blocker the edge rusher can now break down and react to the movement of the quarterback.

Linebacker Blitz Drills: Swim Move Technique and Philosophy

The last move I teach is the rarest one I use and that is the Swim move. Rarely do I have edge rushers who are taller than offensive tackles or tight ends, but sometimes this does occur. I only teach the swim move to taller defensive players because the shorter the player the more difficult it is to execute a swim move.

The swim move is initiated the same as the Bull Rush and the Rip, however less contact is involved. Instead of driving the hands to the breastplate as in the Bull Rush and Rip moves, instead the rusher will actually slap, or pop the outside shoulder of the blocker in an attempt to pull this outside shoulder downward. Once the shoulder is pulled downward, then the inside arm is lifted over this outside shoulder, much as a swimmer executing a freestyle type of swimming would do. Again, once the inside hip of the rusher has passed the outside hip of the blocker, the arm should be brought backwards against the blocker to ensure the feet do not get tangled together.

These moves can all be taught by your defensive line coach. I recommend having the defensive line coach work with any edge rusher on these very techniques.

Coaching the Linebacker Stance Linebacker Steps Linebackers Taking on Blocks
Linebacker Tackling Drills Linebacker Blitz Drills Linebacker Pass Drop Drills

Linebacker Blitz Drills: Peel Coverage

Many blitz schemes today have what are known as “peel rushers” or rushers who will come off of their blitz assignment to cover a running back if the back attempts to cross the path of the rusher. Peel technique does take a bit of work to master, as many offensive coordinator have found ways to recognize the technique and have found ways to exploit it.

Linebacker Peel Coverage Drill

Peel Coverage Drill

The drill is set up by having a back in the backfield that is either directly behind the quarterback or offset. On the snap, the edge rusher attacks the near shoulder of this back and reads the back’s intentions. If the back blocks, then the edge rusher should engage him and use the Bull Rush technique mentioned above.

Linebacker Drills verse the Screen

Peel Coverage vs Screen

 

The reason for this is two-fold, first the edge rusher should be able to overpower the smaller running back and using the Bull Rush technique allows for the pocket to be collapsed quicker than if the rusher tried avoiding the back altogether. Secondly, bull rushing forces the defender to engage the back, and this allows the rusher to “feel” the screen play developing. By engaging the back, the quarterback now has nobody to the throw the football to, and the screen play is stopped in its tracks before it gets started.

Linebacker Peel Coverage Drills

Playing the runningback

If the running back attempts to cross the face of the rusher, the rusher, should settle his feet, being sure to stop his up field charge. Once the feet are settled the rusher must now turn the hips and flatten out, parallel with the line of scrimmage so as not to lose outside leverage on the running back. As the defender gains leverage, he can begin to close the distance between him and the running back.

One tactic that must be drilled is the back going out then vertical. Several offensive coordinators have found this a valuable tactic when facing edge rushers who are involved in peel coverage. The idea behind the scheme is that once the rusher has gained outside leverage, the back simply turns up field and the peel rusher is now in poor position to defend the inside throw.

Linebacker versus Angle Route

Peel Coverage versus Angle route

The key to stopping such plays is teaching the proper reaction to this out and vertical move. Once the rusher has gained leverage on the back, he should think “vertical” immediately and be ready to swing his hips back in towards the quarterback in an attempt to now gain vertical leverage on the back. The defender can utilize the technique used by many defensive back coaches known as the “T-step” to do this. Once the rushers sees the back’s hips lower to make the cut to go vertical, the defender should plant on this outside foot, and then flip his hips back to the inside, so that the defender is not facing the quarterback. Once the hips are turned, the defender should now close on the near shoulder of the running back and be ready to either make the tackle, or break up the pass.

Linebacker Blitz Drills: Summary and Conclusion

Linebackers have to be taught how to blitz, period. Blitzing is not just something you do to create havoc or chaos for opponents, you blitz to gain an advantage over the offense, be it pass rush or run leverage. These linebacker drills and techniques for blitzing is just one example of how to being teaching your players how to blitz properly by learning where to fit against various blocking schemes. These skills are critical in the run blitz game. Teaching your blitzers how to effectively align and “time up” their blitzes is also key in the success of your blitz scheme and how well it will work on opposing offenses.

Also, teaching blitzers how to disguise and bluff to the offense whether or not they are blitzing is just as important a skill as the actual blitz itself. Anything the defense can do to keep the offense guessing goes in the win column for the defense. Lastly, edge rushers need to be taught the skills specific to their jobs as well. Anywhere from attacking blocking schemes and reacting to rushing the passer and covering backs out of the backfield.

All the above linebacker blitzing skills must be taught and taught repetitiously to be effective. Blitzing as a “hope” or “prayer” is not what the blitz was intended for. Using the blitz to gain an advantage over the opponent is what the defensive coordinator should attempt to do. Teaching the skills to properly be able to execute the blitz is paramount for any defensive coordinator trying to gain this advantage.

Linebacker Drills: Pattern Read Pass Drops

There are two schools of thought of dropping linebackers into pass coverage. One way is to spot drop your linebackers, the other way is to pattern read. With the advent of 7 on 7 leagues and sport specialization, quarterbacks have vastly improved their throwing skills over the years. It is our philosophy to pattern read, meaning that we will cover receivers and not grass. We have several linebacker drills to help instill the technique necessary.

Our linebackers, both outside and inside, have 2 basic styles of drops. A drop where the linebacker will try to collision a receiver is called a “throttle” drop. A drop where the linebacker does not need to or is unable to collision a receiver is called a “control” drop.

Before we get started, our philosophy is to take aiming points based on the original receiver alignment. This means that we are not telling our kids, “Ok, you are on the hash drop, 10 yards to the bottom of the numbers”. This does not make sense to me, what if the receiver has a minus (close) alignment relative to the formation. If the receiver ran an inside route from a minus alignment, this would cause the linebacker to cover grass.

Throttle Drops

A throttle drop means that we will try to collision a #2 receiver and not allow him inside. After we collision #2 we will settle and look for work. If #2 goes out, find #1 who will be generally running an inside route.

Linebacker Throttle Drop Drills

Linebacker Throttle Drops

Collision, If #2 releases vertical or inside

Linebacker Pass Drills

If #2 releases outside look for #1

Control Drop

A control drop is when a linebacker does not have to collision a receiver. Generally this is a drop to a #1 receiver. Our aiming point is 10 yards deep and 2 yards inside of #1.

Jerry Gordon Linebacker Drills for Pass

Jerry Gordon Linebacker Pass Drops

As you can see here, the drop of the linebacker is based on the split of the wide receiver.

Linebacker Drills versus Pass

Rover acts like a Linebacker

Point of Interest

When we drop our linebackers, our eyes are initially on the receiver, not the quarterback. Remember, the quarterback is throwing to the receiver. We try to put ourselves between the quarterback and the receiver. If your body is between the receiver and the quarterback, the quarterback will perceive the receiver as covered and throw somewhere else. Once the linebacker does have his eyes on the quarterback, we tell him to look at his eyes and the direction and angle the quarterback’s shoulders

Linebackers Drills for Pattern Read Pass Drops

We use linebacker drills to obviously practice the fundamentals involved in our pass drops but we also use drills to teach, so our linebackers have a solid understanding of strengths and weaknesses of our coverage. Our Motto is Talk it, Walk it, Do it, Teach it. After the linebacker has learned his technique, we expect them to be able to help our younger guys.

Our drills aren’t very fancy, what you see on the practice field is what you will see in the game.

Linebacker Drills: Control Drills

We set a cone 10 yards deep and have the linebacker drop 2 yards inside the cone. We will vary the width of the cone so the linebacker now has to vary the angle of his drop.

Next, we add a receiver and a quarterback to the drill. Now, the linebacker must get a feel for where the receiver is relative to the quarterback. Coaching points for this linebacker drill: Linebacker must get into a great initial stance, push off his inside foot, snap his eyes to the receiver and open his hips to the receiver.

Linebacker Drills: Throttle Drills

We always do throttle drills with one or two receivers.

First, we will have the linebacker drop to an intersection point of a #2 receiver watching for the slant or disrupting his vertical route. Next we will add a #1 receiver and run the common combination routes or the routes we know we will see on game day. This is a simple yet effective set of linebacker drills.

Duece is the author of Football is Life, a great blog for football coaches, especially in regards to the 4-2-4 defense. You can find Football is Life from that link.

Linebacker Drills: Pattern Read Pass Drops – Jerry Gordon

There are two schools of thought of dropping linebackers into pass coverage. One way is to spot drop your linebackers, the other way is to pattern read. With the advent of 7 on 7 leagues and sport specialization, quarterbacks have vastly improved their throwing skills over the years. It is our philosophy to pattern read, meaning that we will cover receivers and not grass. We have several linebacker drills to help instill the technique necessary.

Our linebackers, both outside and inside, have 2 basic styles of drops. A drop where the linebacker will try to collision a receiver is called a “throttle” drop. A drop where the linebacker does not need to or is unable to collision a receiver is called a “control” drop.

Before we get started, our philosophy is to take aiming points based on the original receiver alignment. This means that we are not telling our kids, “Ok, you are on the hash drop, 10 yards to the bottom of the numbers”. This does not make sense to me, what if the receiver has a minus (close) alignment relative to the formation. If the receiver ran an inside route from a minus alignment, this would cause the linebacker to cover grass.

Coaching the Linebacker Stance Linebacker Steps Linebackers Taking on Blocks
Linebacker Tackling Drills Linebacker Blitz Drills Linebacker Pass Drop Drills

Throttle Drops

A throttle drop means that we will try to collision a #2 receiver and not allow him inside. After we collision #2 we will settle and look for work. If #2 goes out, find #1 who will be generally running an inside route.

Linebacker Throttle Drop Drills

Linebacker Throttle Drops

Collision, If #2 releases vertical or inside

Linebacker Pass Drills

If #2 releases outside look for #1

Control Drop

A control drop is when a linebacker does not have to collision a receiver. Generally this is a drop to a #1 receiver. Our aiming point is 10 yards deep and 2 yards inside of #1.

Jerry Gordon Linebacker Drills for Pass

Jerry Gordon Linebacker Pass Drops

As you can see here, the drop of the linebacker is based on the split of the wide receiver.

Linebacker Drills versus Pass

Rover acts like a Linebacker

Point of Interest

When we drop our linebackers, our eyes are initially on the receiver, not the quarterback. Remember, the quarterback is throwing to the receiver. We try to put ourselves between the quarterback and the receiver. If your body is between the receiver and the quarterback, the quarterback will perceive the receiver as covered and throw somewhere else. Once the linebacker does have his eyes on the quarterback, we tell him to look at his eyes and the direction and angle the quarterback’s shoulders

Linebackers Drills for Pattern Read Pass Drops

We use linebacker drills to obviously practice the fundamentals involved in our pass drops but we also use drills to teach, so our linebackers have a solid understanding of strengths and weaknesses of our coverage. Our Motto is Talk it, Walk it, Do it, Teach it. After the linebacker has learned his technique, we expect them to be able to help our younger guys.

Our drills aren’t very fancy, what you see on the practice field is what you will see in the game.

Linebacker Drills: Control Drills

We set a cone 10 yards deep and have the linebacker drop 2 yards inside the cone. We will vary the width of the cone so the linebacker now has to vary the angle of his drop.

Next, we add a receiver and a quarterback to the drill. Now, the linebacker must get a feel for where the receiver is relative to the quarterback. Coaching points for this linebacker drill: Linebacker must get into a great initial stance, push off his inside foot, snap his eyes to the receiver and open his hips to the receiver.

Linebacker Drills: Throttle Drills

We always do throttle drills with one or two receivers.

First, we will have the linebacker drop to an intersection point of a #2 receiver watching for the slant or disrupting his vertical route. Next we will add a #1 receiver and run the common combination routes or the routes we know we will see on game day. This is a simple yet effective set of linebacker drills.

Jerry Gordon is the author of Coaching the Under Front Defense, a very throughout yet implementable guide to the defense. You can order Coaching the Under Front Defense from that link at Amazon (use that link b/c Jerry I believe earns a little more if you use it).
defensive drills linebacker drills

Conclusions on Linebacker Drills

Linebacker drills can be done in numerous ways. I want to thank the other 4 contributing authors. You can see that each has a unique way of doing things. If you liked their pieces, please check out their materials.

  

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One thought on “Linebacker Drills: Ultimate Guide

  1. Fred Wilson

    We run the 4-3 also; the linebacker drills will be great for them during our individual drills.

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