Tight End Drills: Guide to Improve Their Skills


As with all hybrid positions, tight ends have a lot of responsibilities. Because of this, it often times requires an athletically talented player and a great teaching coach. However, if you design your offense well, you should be limiting the overall skills the tight end needs to know. This can drastically decrease the amount of tight end drills that a coach needs to run, and should over emphasize the skill development of the most commonly needed skills of the tight end.

There is some details on philosophy, and video of tight end drills from teams like Vanderbilt

Tight End Drills: Run Blocking Philosophy

When we start to think about tight end run blocking drills, we need to find out what are their 3-4 most common blocks that they need to execute. For instance, if you run power and counter to the tight end side 30% of the time, then they better be good at down blocking and combo blocking if you see a lot of under fronts or 7 technique ends. If you see more 4-3 over looks, they should be good at escaping to linebackers.

Another skill set they should have is reach blocking, especially if you run toss sweep, outside zone or stretch. Getting that edge is vital, and this is probably the one skill set you should practice more-so than the percentage you run the plays, because it’s a harder skill to develop.

However, overall, analyze your blocking schemes and base your tight end drills off of those. Do you ask your tight end to execute 7 different types of run blocks? That’s too many blocks to expect excellence from for someone who isn’t a full time run blocker, unless they are just the most talented player on the field.

Tight End Drills: Run Blocking Drills

Obviously based off the section above, you should base these tight end drills off your key blocks. However, here’s a video of USF doing a few tight end drills that I thought were valuable.

I like the combination block drill. Since most offenses have their own version of the combination block, I think it’s valuable to work over and over again. For tight ends especially, I like them to try to get a hand on the hip of the defender. This means they need to come down on an angle, which is better suited for plays like Power and Counter compared to Inside Veer, which is more of a vertical combination block.

The reason I say to target the hip, and by that I mean the defender’s near or outside hip, is because it’s like a steering wheel. It’s very easy to force the defender to open his hips with applied pressure, which would then allow the tight end to turn the defender over completely to the tackle, so that the tight end can be prepared to take an incoming linebacker. Targeting the hip also helps prevent the dreaded spin off some defenders try.

For plays like outside veer where the tight end needs to execute more of a vertical combo (some people prefer this for Power too, but I don’t), the tight end should step with his near foot and keep his outside arm free. This usually means that the tackle will come off the combination block, so it is one less skill to know in that regard if you use this variation, however; I believe it’s tough on a player who typically isn’t overly strong.

The next tight end drill from a run blocking perspective is the reach block. Tight ends have are in a tough position. When trying to get the edge, they need to have high effort and they need to make a decision – do I take the defender to the side lines or do I try to get to his outside shoulder?

In the midst of a game, this is tough. Let’s focus on the decision part. I usually like to put the defender on the outside eye of the tight end first. Then the outside shoulder. Then the “wide 9″ so to speak. This helps him visualize what he might actually see in a game better than game film can. With the tightest alignment, he needs to be prepared for the inside move by the defender.

Depending on your outsize zone or stretch blocking rules (covered/uncovered versus pin and pull), your tight end might need to adjust to the defender flying inside or let him go and work to the next level. I want to suggest if you are working on letting him go to the next level, do so without another defender first (have him run to a cone). I say this because you want him to get good at one aspect first, before moving onto the next. After he is successful at that, add another blocker and another defender and work the drill with them involved, reacting to the defense.

After you do that, work the outside shoulder alignment and the “wide 9″ technique. Tell the tight end that on his second step that he needs to decide what to do. This likely won’t happen in games, but it will speed up that thought process by working it in your tight end drills.

Now, I think the final step here is the effort drill. Put the tight end and a good caliber defensive player (like your starting defensive end) on one sideline of your football field. They must work horizontally down one line of the field (like the 40 yard line) until the tight end hooks the defender, or the defender gets completely disengaged from the tight end and in the backfield. You want to see these players fight for the all-so-important perimeter of the line of scrimmage.

Here are some more tight end drills for run blocking:

The concept of run blocking drills based on your most common blocks comes from my e-book, Developing a Physical and Aggressive Offensive Line! Get it today to learn more great tips!

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Tight End Drills: Receiving Drills

I’m going to put a lot of video’s of tight end drills here executing various receiving drills, because I believe that’s the best way to illustrate some of these.

Here are some Vanderbilt Tight end Route Running Drills

This is from Webber International University of 2012. I’m not as big of a fan of the run blocking stuff, but I did like the receiving drills here. In terms of the run blocking, I’ve never been a fan of the “holsters” and “lifting” a defender, I prefer a punch with the bottom part of the palms followed by lift from hips.

Overall, there are a lot of tight end drills you can use. For passing, you should follow the same concept… execute drills based off what skills the players will need. Do they get mostly outside shoulder alignments? Work on inside releases. Do you never run the tight end corner route and the drag rout the most? You should probably rep those releases and route stems the most in your tight end drills.