Defensive Back Work

It isn’t as easy as “heads, shoulders, knees and toes” but just about. Everything we do with DB’s is designed to cover what usually is far more field than 5 or 6 people (4-5 in the US) can cover with as much efficiency as possible, force the offensive players where we want them to go, narrow and shorten the field and back up the work of the defensive line and linebackers.

What are you looking for in a great DB at your level – Pee-Wee through to the professional ranks it’s about understanding the concepts and getting better at executing those concepts at each level…but the concepts, they really don’t change.

The Head and the Eyes 

Understanding where they are on the field, what is happening across from them, what down, what distance, wide (field) side or short (boundary side), what usually happens in this down, distance, formation, pre-snap motion, this receiver set (called out from left to right pre-motion) , QB in gun/under center, RB location (more an LB call but DB’s from film should be thinking) all before the snap sets the table for everything that’s going to happen next.  Take that to the next level the first 3 steps should allow a DB to determine – Run, Play Action, Pass, short pass or mid/deep – being able to react to those elements on the fly is a matter of understanding the concepts, processing, recall, and letting your feet and body do what they need to do while your head and eyes do their work.  

As much as possible to help with the development of the head and eyes keep in mind the words of author and speaker Simon Sinek – Start with Why.  Tell them why it’s important to understand the role each drill plays in supporting their 3 step examinations for each play.  Develop catchphrases that key quick reminders that help them know that each play is exactly that one play, “snap the wrist band” and get thinking about the next one right away.  “Do your job” is not just a Patriot axiom, DB’s must understand their job and stick with that responsibility ESPECIALLY in zone coverage.  “Go where he’s going” and “Beat him to the spot” are as much Head and Eyes work as physical work, understanding the geometry (at their level) and space is critical to team defence success. 

The Foundational Elements:

Feet: Quick feet capable of moving the body through all the aspects game start with work that is not football specific and progresses from there. 

Ladder Drills: There is no shortage of ladder drill YouTube videos for ladder drills.  Coach John Wooden had more than a couple great lines but “But Go Slow to Go Fast” is critical to long term success here.  Here’s a couple – and (I like this one for players doing ladder work over the offseason or on their own because of the continuous workout and backpedal or side shuffles back to the start of the ladder and you can download the one page pdf here).  This collection of 44 has several variations to mix it up – you might chart out a daily 5 and then have a couple different each day – I like some of the hand work training included in this set – it’s more of a full fitness run through.   

For the few of you who might want a bit of an extreme test… Can’t say that I’ve ever seen a ladder in the shallow end of a pool (about 4 minutes into the video) before but heh….I get the concept.  I do like the video as an example again for what a committed individual might do on his/her own time to improve endurance, speed, and quickness. 

Dice/Dot Drills: Another quick way to do a few drills that build coordination, footwork, and in a couple of cases work to support hip flexibility take a minute or two a week in your warmups to do the 5 dot or dice drills.  A couple of dot drill video’s and just in case someone asks…football players do this, the answer is yes and they have a bit of fun with it as well. Check out Ohio State

Warm-up or Daily Footwork Drills:
Line back pedal sequence – if you have a lined field always work with those lines to watch for drift.  “Shoulders over knees, knees over toes”  Classic backpedal and what I refer to as the Saban Shuffle – different purposes, different levels, different coverages. 

Backpedal Work
Backpedal – Slower first few steps – eyes depend on coverage call DON’T focus on speed just yet – 
Turn and go – “Flip the hips” “Throw the Elbow” – Flash the arms up through the imaginary receiver
Backpedal weave – working to contain leverage on your receiver working to space. 
Shuffle steps  – pro/cons

Patterns on the Defensive Side against space – returning to the Start with Why idea DB’s need to run through their pattern tree that mirrors the work of receivers, LB’s need to do the same thing for their responsibilities with a #3 or RB receiver. 

What’s your pattern tree?  What’s the language? Whatever it is use that language all the time, it helps with the scouting and the quick conversations on the sidelines. 

0-1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9, 7 bend 8, 2 Add,
Hot/Hitch, Quick In, Quick Out, In, Out, Sticks (an out or stop at the first down box), Hook In, Dig out, Post, Flag, Post/corner (Beckham or Bender) Jet, Fade, 

Run the patterns from a DB perspective – working on the footwork that puts the DB’s in the best position to recognize/defend each of those patterns.  

Footwork on turns – Footwork on double moves – practice all options available to develop the skills. 

Press coverage – one step in, one step out – quick work. 
Press – Press – Press – release
Trail – Lost ’em – Catch ’em 

Hands – Yes and No – We want to use them at the right time, in the right way. 
Running – 
Covering –
Fighting Blocks – 
Fighting for the Ball-

Tackle Drills
Rules we Want to Remember:
|Go where he’s…going|  Target Points – Near shoulder to near shoulder/number or near thigh |  Maintain Leverage (against blockers and as you close on runner) – Sideline from the inside – teammates from the outside | Defend Your “lane”  | Be “Wide” – Wings of a Condor | Head position – Read your helmet  | Dip and Load and bring the big muscles into play | Wrap and Hold on for the cavalry and/or Drive Back | Angles …at tackle at the one is NOT a TD  |

You have the Football Canada work to refer to, in addition, I enjoy coming back to this video regularly on the “Seahawks” method. | Bobby Hosea’s Heads Free tackling. | 

Video and Document Library –

There are countless videos with variations on all of this work, as always you need to remember that there are rule differences – and of course in the case of university videos you have to adjust the concepts down to the level of athlete you’re working with but the principles are the same. 

Washington DBacks | Extended Alabama DB with game clips | Florida State DB Drills | Coaching clink session video from Michigan State | Nick Saban – coaching clinic (I think this was during his Michigan State days) – Quite a while ago as the Overhead projector attests principles still in use HS, college and beyond. | Brian Billick – Game Planning Video – An excellent old school position to help with game film analysis and study. 

Working on your own on the offseason – sketch this out and rep it – again – this is a high school model – adjust for age and size. 

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A couple of talks reminders of why we do what we do this Ted Talk by Coach John Wooden is one we never really want to forget.