Practice Drills to Help You Shed Blocks Like a Pro

Football Defensive Line Skills

football players opposing each other
Players must be able to get away from blockers and make a tackle.

Michael Zagaris / Getty Images 

The game of football is geared toward the offense in many ways. The difference between you being able to shed your blocker in one or two seconds is the difference between you making a tackle for a loss, or allowing a first down.

Whether you're a linebacker or defensive back, you have to be able to get away from your blocker and make a tackle. Here are some tips and drills you can practice with your teammates to help you shed blockers.

The One-Arm Shiver

You need three players for this drill: a linebacker, blocker, and ball carrier. Start this drill in slow motion. The blocker lines up across from the linebacker, while the ball carrier is in the backfield. When the blocker tries to engage, the defender takes a half-step toward the ball, meets the blocker with their inside forearm—underneath the blocker's shoulder pads—while simultaneously stepping forward with their back foot to get into a tackling position. After running the play in slow motion a few times, try and run it full speed and have your linebacker shed the block and make the tackle.


This is a technique used for getting around high blocks. Align your feet with the shoulders of the blocker in front of you and extend both arms fully when engaging your blocker. You want to strike their shoulder pads hard and fast, keeping your thumbs pointed up. The idea is to stop their momentum and prevent them from getting their hands on you. When you spot the ball carrier, remove the arm opposite the direction he is running (so if he is headed right, disengage your left arm), then use your still-connected arm to push the defender across your body and set up for the tackle. Again, this drill is best if practiced initially in slow motion and then full speed.

The Stuff

Opponents won't always try and block you high. They may try and take out your legs. The Stuff drill allows you to practice identifying low block attempts and then how to use it to your advantage. When you spot the blocker coming in low, place your hands on top of their helmet or shoulder pads and hop backward, while keeping your shoulders parallel to the line of scrimmage. This will essentially push your blocker to the turf and free you up to attack the ball.

Engage the Blocker First

One of the biggest mistakes defensive players make is waiting for the block before trying to shed it. Initiative and leverage is everything, you can't afford to be knocked off balance by waiting for the blocker to engage you. A good defender initiates the contact, allowing him to control the block and more easily avoid it. Practice meeting the blocker before the blocker meets you.

Machine Gun Drill

This drill somewhat simulates a real game situation where you'll likely have more than one blocker to get around. You need five players for this exercise: a linebacker, three blockers, and a ball carrier. The linebacker starts in the middle of the field, while the ball carrier runs it out wide for a sweep. The defender must first shed a high block while moving left or right, and then avoid two subsequent low blocks before making a tackle on the runner.