Football Coaches Guide to Everyday Drills for the Defensive Line

Skills the Defensive Line Needs for Recognizing and Breaking Blocks

Football line of scrimmage
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Drills are essential for defensive line players to achieve the skills necessary for recognizing blocks, breaking through the line and rushing the quarterback or making a key tackle.

Everyday drills offer a great way for defensive line coaches to get the most out of practice time while keeping the players' interest. Choose two or three of these drills daily to sharpen the player's skills.

How to Execute a Six-Point Explosion Drill

Players are positioned in a six-point stance with hands, knees, and toes on the ground. The buttocks of players should be touching as close to their heels as possible. On the whistle or ball simulation, players are to explode out of this stance by rolling the hips and firing arms out as if attacking offensive lineman. Have players land on chest and stomach. Make sure hands are ready to attack lineman with the thumb and forefinger forming a "V," the forefinger should be pointing upward. Players tend to point thumbs up, which can cause greater stress to wrist when the player strikes with the punch. Have players fire out and recoil back into six-point stance until they pass a predetermined endpoint, like 10 to 15 yards downfield.

Purpose of a Six-Point Explosion

The purpose of the six-point explosion drill is to create a player's muscle memory for a proper hip roll and striking out with arms; this drill conditions player stomachs for hits as they are landing on the ground. It also stretches the quad muscles.

How to Perform a Trap Drill

This is a full-speed drill. The defensive line faces the offensive line. A coach will instruct the offensive players to do three types of blocks: a down block, block head-on, and a trap block.

In a down block, the line blocks at an angle toward the inside or outside of the opposing defensive lineman. In a block head-on, each player fires out to block the defensive lineman directly in front of him. In a trap block, an offensive player steps behind the center and runs to block a purposely unblocked defender who is "trapped" to believe that no one is blocking him.

The defensive line has to react to each of the blocks. If an offensive lineman down blocks, the defender must read it quickly and get into position for taking on the trap block with a wrong-arm technique, a common maneuver that disrupts the opponent's balance. 

Purpose of Trap Drill

This purpose of a trap drill is to familiarize defensive linemen with blocking methods used by opposing offenses.

How to Do a Push-Pull-Rip Drill

A defensive player lines up facing an offensive blocker. On the snap of the ball, the defender is to strike punch, using the "V" hand position, and use a push-pull technique. In a push-pull, one hand pulls the offensive player toward him, while the other hand pushes that side of player away from him, knocking the offensive player off balance. Then, the defensive player uses the rip move, by violently ripping the inside arm up and underneath the offensive player’s arm to the away side of the opponent.  This moves the off-balance offensive player away from the defensive lineman.

Purpose of a Push-Pull-Rip

A proper push-pull-rip technique allows the defender to penetrate the line of scrimmage and make the tackle.

How to Execute a Club-Rip Drill

A defensive player lines up facing an offensive blocker. On the snap of the ball, the defender fires out and uses the club move, a quickly closed hand punch of one side of the blocker, quickly followed by a rip, ripping the arm up and underneath, from the opposite arm.

Purpose of a Club-Rip

The purpose of the club-rip drill is to teach a player a companion rush move to the push-pull-rip technique. The rusher must get off quick and force the blocker to move his feet and turn his shoulders. The rushers aiming point must be an imaginary shoulder wider than the pressure point. A well-executed club-rip will break down the angles of the blocker's shoulders and allow the defensive player to rush the quarterback.

How to Perform a Double Team Drill

A defensive lineman lines straight up on an offensive player. Second offensive player lines up next to the first offensive player. On command, a double team block, a head-on block or a down block will be performed. The defender must recognize which of the three blocks is being attempted. The defensive player must work on quick recognition.

In a double team, the player "gets skinny," or twists the upper body to make the shoulder pads perpendicular to the offensive linemen. The objective is to split the double team and get through to make the tackle. If the player cannot split the double team block, the player can create a pile-up by dropping to the knees and attempting to take down the two offensive blockers.

Purpose of a Double Team

A double team drill simulates game-like conditions. A defender must avoid being driven back into the linebackers. It teaches the player quick recognition of blocks and how to prevent a successful double team block.  

Coaching Suggestion

Use a football-on-a-stick to simulate the football snap instead of blowing a whistle. Football-on-a-stick conditions defensive linemen to watch the ball being snapped and helps them pay attention to the rest of the field. To make a do-it-yourself football-on-a-stick, slice a small wedge out of a sponge-like football, place the end of a yardstick into the opening, and tape the yardstick to the football. Angle the stick to make it easier for the coach to simulate the snap.