This defensive back drill is very helpful with teaching defensive backs to read the quarterback, get their eyes inside, read the front shoulder and transition their feet. It also helps build an understanding of the opportunities to pick the ball or intercept it.
Picking the Ball Off
I call this our Buddy Drill, and I partner our guys up with about the same level of ability. They are going to jog at me shoulder to shoulder and, as a quarterback and coach, I am going to throw the ball to one player or the other. When I throw the ball to that player, he becomes the receiver and his buddy becomes the defensive back. And we work on breaking in front of the route and picking the ball off.
Reading the Quarterbacks Shoulders
Ensure your players are reacting to the quarterbacks shoulders, which is an initial technique of teaching young defensive backs how to read the throw. So in the drill, they’re going to be watching me, and I’m going to open my shoulders one way or the other and throw the ball. That’s going to allow them to get their outside foot stuck in the ground, break towards the throw, and intercept the ball.
The more they see the quarterbacks shoulders, the better they’ll be able to read the throw. Even the guys playing at the highest levels throw the football this way – they point that front shoulder to the player they’re going to throw to. So you want to constantly put into your defensive backs minds – watch the front shoulder of the quarterback. When that quarterbacks shoulder turns, break that direction, because that’s where the ball is going to go.
Deflecting the Ball
As we progress the drill, we’re going to make it a little more difficult on the defensive back to pick the ball. I am going to throw the ball to the perfect position for the receiver to catch it and now we are going to work on progressing through the drill, by becoming a pass defender and deflecting the pass away from the receiver.
You’re going to transition on the ball, read the quarterback shoulder, drive through the route, strip it with your far-side arm, and leave your back arm for the tackle. If you’re not sure you’re going to pick the ball off, you don’t want to try to strip the ball with two hands – leave that back-side hand behind there to secure the tackle. If you have both hands in front of the receiver and you miss the ball, he is going to catch the ball and you have no ability to tackle.
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