Whether you’re a linebacker or a cornerback, you have to master certain basic defensive skills to do your job. You need to know how to pursue the ball carrier, make tackles and force turnovers.
If you’re a coach, it’s best to develop these skills early in training camp, so you’re not caught off guard as the season starts. Here are some drills that will help get you going.
Swarming to the football is the passion of defensive coordinators across the country and a hallmark of great defensive teams. Having more defenders around the ball limits the chance of a big play by the offense and increases the odds of forcing a turnover. Every team has its own version of a pursuit drill. In one of the most common, all 11 defenders pursue a ball carrier as he sprints down the sideline. Each player is responsible for reaching the runner at a certain point on the field. In some versions, players merely run to a landmark. Against a live runner, players must adjust their angle while pursuing, making the drill more realistic.
Once a defender gets to the ball, he must be a sure tackler. A tackling circuit teaches proper technique (literally from the ground up), improves ability and decreases the likelihood of injury.
Players begin on their knees, shooting their hips and arms into a stationary partner. From there, they move to one knee, exploding up from the ground and wrapping up their partner. This move forces them to extend their hips, creating big hits. Once on their feet, players hit tackling dummies before taking on teammates or opponents.
A turnover circuit is a fast-paced way to drive home the point that the team that wins the turnover battle usually wins the game.
Groups of eight to 10 players practice stripping the football from a ball carrier, recover a wildly bouncing ball, intercept tipped passes, and run through the scoop and score, recovering a fumble on the run so that it can be returned.