One of the most important parts of tackling has nothing to do with physical contact, and everything to do positioning and a player’s
ability to react to the offensive player. Learning to prevent cutback lanes and how to shoot the gap once the ball carrier has committed are absolutely essential to any teams’ practices.
If you find that your players are constantly overcommitting and allowing large cutback lanes, this is a great drill to teach them how to stop and contain the ball carrier. Set up four cones, two about ten yards apart, with two lines facing each other. The other two cones will be set half way between the first cones, and somewhere between 10-15 yards apart.
One line begins with the ball in their hands, and on your hike, they will take off, sprinting for one of the outside cones. The player in the defensive line will sprint after the ball carrier, making sure not to overpursue.
When the offensive player feels like they have a good angle, they will change directions, cutting back and trying to get back around the defensive player. By taking a slightly deeper angle and not overcommitting to the outside run, the defender should
be able to tag the ball carrier.
I prefer to run this as a non-contact drill, letting players focus on technique and containment rather than worrying to much about getting a big hit on the ball carrier.
This is similar to the cutback drill, however here we’re going to be focusing on reading and plugging up gaps before the ball carrier can get out into the linebacking core or secondary.
This time set up seven cones, giving the offensive player 6 holes to choose from. Then on your signal, they will choose a side, and hit one of 6 holes hard, trying to get beat the defender. The defender is going to take a more shallow angle in this drill, trying to discourage the offensive player from using the inside holes and bumping them out to one of the outside holes, and tagging them immediately.
These are great drills for non-contact days, as you can help to instill your defensive principles without the wear and tear that will occur from constantly having full contact practices.
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