Focusing on Your Defensive Back Players During Football Practice

defensive back stance

Today, we’re going to give you the fundamental core drills and techniques of defensive back field play that you can focus on during football practice.

Football Practice: Explaining Defensive Stance and Stagger

defensive back stance

Defensive Back Stance

The first thing we want to talk about is stance. The stance has to be functional and comfortable. The bottom line is we want to maintain that stance throughout our backpedal, so it’s got to start with a good base.

Your players should go with a narrow base because the first movement is going to be backwards. Roughly, there should be about a 6″ split between the two feet.

In terms of the stagger, we’re going to go toe to in step in a backpedal as a general stagger. When we’re moving backwards, this is how we’re going to start.  We want our knees bent and we want the butt down.

Here are a few things you should remind your players of:

  • Get that front chin over the front toe
  • Pick up the arms, but have them tight to the body
  • The elbow should be almost rubbing against the body, but in a relaxed manner
  • Weight should be primarily on the front foot; the rest of the weight should be distributed on the inside balls of the feet
  • Keep the head up
  • To measure the depth of the stance, ask your players to hang their hands down gently to their sides; the hands should be at knee level, roughly
Defensive Quick Step Back

Quick Step Back

Now that your player is in his stance, it’s time to ask him for one step–a six-inch step. During this time, emphasize that you don’t want a false step. When you’re ready, command your player to give you a six-inch step–just a short, quick step.

If your player is having a hard time with a false step, tell him to put more weight on that front foot and really focus on having that chin over the front toe.

Once we’ve established the stance and that first step, we’re going to work into the pedal. The key thing is that we work right out of that stance. When you’re ready to send your player out, give him a visual command to send down. One example of a visual command is tapping a ball that you’re holding. When you tap that ball, your player should start his backpedal.

Here are some things to remind your player of during the backpedal:

  • While that first initial step is short and quick, the first few steps of your backpedal should be deliberate and slow
  • After those first few steps of the backpedal, elongate your stance and take bigger, quicker strides as you work downfield
  • Maintain that narrow base
  • Keep your elbows tight to your body
  • Arm rotation should take place at the shoulders
  • Keep your feet low to the ground as you move

Practicing the Weave Technique

Doing the Weave Technique During Football Practice

Weave Technique

The weave has been designed to allow your defensive back to maintain a horizontal relationship with the receiver. We always have a vertical relationship, and this is our horizontal relationship. It could be either inside or outside, but with a receiver generally trained to take away our leverage, we’re going to teach to maintain that leverage.

It starts very simple.  We’re going to start in the backpedal, and then we’re going to move your player to a side.

The main coaching points with the weave is that the hips and shoulders maintain a square relationship to the target.

What happens is your player will push off his foot in one direction, but still reaching back. Like the backpedal, everything maintains a tight relationship, stays within the framework or the core of the body.

Practicing the Open Technique

Doing the Open Technique During Football Practice

Open Technique

Probably the most important transition we have to teach defensive backs as they work out of their pedal is to open downfield, to cover the deep ball.

Have your player start in a backpedal. Give him a visual command to open up and turn and run straight down the line. Then throttle him down.

One thing that you should always teach your players from day one is they always want to point a foot in the direction that they’re heading.

What we need to emphasize with this drill is two things. One is to hop that far foot up so we’ll buy some time in the air for us to make that transition. The second thing is violently punching our elbow out and down to accentuate the explosion and the burst.

Practicing the Drive Technique

Doing the Drive Technique During Football Practice

Drive Technique

The next transition we teach is the drive or the movement forward. Get your player in a backpedal and give him a visual command to move forward.

The key thing is to get a foot quickly stuck in the ground. All the time is we want to get our feet and maintain everything within the core of our body. The foot may come out slightly within the core on the first step, but as we sink our hips and drop our butt, it’s going to finish within the core. If it doesn’t, that’s typically when you’ll see a defensive back slide out.

One coaching point to give your players is that they should give you violent arm action. What you should see in this drill is your player pumping those arms as fast as he can, tight to the body.

These techniques will help you to give your defensive back players some guidance during football practice. What types of drills do you have your defensive players practice to perfect their technique?

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