Pass Protection Drills 3: “Spot Sets”

A Great purchase I made this Spring was a set of a dozen Poly Spots from Amazon.

These flat rubber circles are 6 different colors and I have been using them a lot in place of cones.  They lay flat so kids can step on them without problems and I have used them to color code some drills.

One drill I have been using is what I call “Spot Sets”.

Each color comes in pairs so I will lay one of each color out along a yard line, this is the starting “Spot” for that line.  I use it’s matching color to show a depth and angle I would like us to take on our sets.

So if a kid starts on the Red Spot, he wants to finish at the other red spot.

I spend most of my INDY time working on the run game so I noticed we were struggling in our drop back protection against our scout defense.  Any sort of speed/edge rush and we were toast.  I decided to spend a lot of time this week working for us to get more depth in our pass set.

Spot Sets Drill:

With this drill 6 kids are working at a time.  When we work right side sets they put their right foot on the first spot, and will take 2 “kick slide” sets back and out make it to our just past the second spot.

Having the spots has really helped my kids see the depth and angle I want them setting at.

I have made it a major focus to get them understanding their ability to set comes from the inside leg, not the leg they are flailing in the air trying to kick with.  I borrow a lot from LeCharles Bentley and he phrases it as “Drive – Catch”.  The inside leg is DRIVING you back and out and the “kicking” leg is catching you.

Here are some clips of us working it.

Varying Your Sets

Pass Sets are tools in an Offensive Lineman’s Toolbox.  You need different types of sets for different types of rushers.  Some guys may just need one “drive-catch” or one “kick slide” to get into good position.  If you go against a wide speed rush you may need 2 or more.  I can change the distance between spots to get what i want from the drill.  In the video examples above we were working against a wide speed rush, so I tell the OL to “give me 2”.  This means they will work 2 kick slide back and out to get to or beyond the spot.  Another day I may work a quicker, shorter set and we just work the 1 kick slide or “drive – catch”.

Even though this is a newer drill for my OL and myself, I have seen a pretty immediate improvement in our pass sets during team.

Safer Tackling Made Affordable

Background on Tackling Safety:

If you are not aware of all of the safety concerns with tackling in our sport than you have been living under a rock. A major move over the last few years has been removing the head entirely from the tackle. Most teams in the country are now teaching tackling by bringing the shoulder to the thigh area, wrapping up, and driving the feet. The head is completely removed from the tackle, and we are no longer coaching kids up to “get their head in front”. This old school “putting the head in front” puts all of the stress in the head/neck area and does not actually give you more force. The Seattle Seahawks studied form Rugby teams and how they tackled and created a video tape explaining a technique called “Hawk Tackling”.
Here is a great video showing their techniques.

As this “Hawk Tackling” or “Rugby Tackling” has become more popular, devices have been created to help teach tackling.  Rugby teams have used “Tackling Rings” for years.  They are large foam wheels, you roll them, players tackle them.

tackling ring

You aren’t banging players’ bodies, they get to track an actual moving target, bring their hips and wrap up.  This is a great safe way to teach tackling… but they are usually $400-$500 EACH.  A lot of high schools and youth organizations do not have the resources to buy one, let alone a few for all positions to work on safe tackling at the same time.

Here is a little example of some drills using a tackling ring.

Ballin On A Budget

I do not believe teams with money should be the only ones that deserve to learn how to tackle safely.

I do not believe in paying that much money for something Cavemen invented a million years ago.

So I came up with this idea…  I’d buy an inner-tube on Amazon.  It was cheap, seemed adequate size, and if it didn’t work out… oh well I am not out that much money.  However, if it works, and holds up to getting tackled, I have given my players and coaches a way to safely rep tackling at a fraction of the cost.

I bought an inner-tube from a seller on Amazon.  Link to Inner-tube Seller

Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 11.52.25 AM

They offer different sizes and my first purchase was a 40″ inner-tube for just $32.99.  This is a great size for youth and your smaller players.  I felt like I needed a little bit bigger model so I ordered the 45″ for just 36.99. They also offer a HUGE 68″ model that I want to order for $110.

All of these options come with free shipping for Amazon Prime members (you are insane if you are not a Prime Member).

Does it Really Work?

These first purchases were just an experiment.  I wanted to see

  • Will it even Roll?
  • Will it hold up?
  • Will tackling it work like we want?
  • It is probably gonna pop the first time we tackle it, right?

Well after trying them out, they work!  They have held up just fine no matter how much we tackle and throw it around.  The inner-tube itself feels more thick/durable than I would’ve thought.  We are getting the desired result and kids have fun with it.  My experiment showed me this is worth doing, and a much more cost effective way for us to help teach tackling safely.

Again, the link to the inner-tubes I bought is here.

I will post some videos of us tackling the inner-tube in the next couple weeks.

Pass Pro Indy Drills Part 2

Continuing on with this series of Pass Pro OL drills

Today we will take a look at 2 new drills, as well as a circuit of 2 drills I have now written about when I have large groups.


Softball Drill:

This drill works the OL’s lateral movement and is really designed to get them bending in the knees/hips, not bending over at the waist.  The key is to “drop your butt”.  The OL is across from a coach or teammate on a knee.  The player on a knee rolls a softball or baseball side to side.  The OL has to work laterally keeping a wide base, then lower the hips to pick the ball up and toss it back.  Try to keep them from getting lazy and bending over or getting a narrow base.  We get 3-4 reps each and rotate.  The flow of the Line works softball tosser, to OL, to the back of the line.

Softball/Medicine Ball Circuit:

When I have a bigger group of kids I like to work 2 groups in 2 drills and then rotate the groups.  I do not like long lines of kids standing and waiting so this gets us more reps in.  Here I have the OL, TEs, and FBs split into 2 groups with half working Softball drill, and half working Medicine ball drill.

Christmas Tree Drill:

This drill gets it’s name from the shape the cones on the ground make, similar to a Christmas Tree.  2 players can go at a time, one working right side stagger, one working left.  The players will kick slide on roughly a 45 degree angle, then lateral step inside and so on until the end of the tree.  At the end of the tree they will turn to their outside and sprint.  This simulates when you are beat by a defender, you aren’t in position to block him anymore and all you can do is sprint to try to get back in his way as he works up the field.  If you have a large group, you can set up more cones to make more Trees.

For setting up the tree Each cone is 2 yards wider and 2 yards deeper than the previous cone.

Click here if you missed PART 1 of this series. 

Pass Pro Indy Drills Part 1

A friend asked me for some Pass Pro Indy Drills so I am going to start filming a few that I do.

I do not do these drills every day.  Some of the film I put up will be us actually learning the drill.

Stealing Time for Pass Pro:

In my practice planning I put most of my offensive time into Indy time.  I am an OL guy and I need my Indy time to work through all of our blocks.  We are a run heavy team and that is our identity.  It is what we are good at so we do not spend a ton of our Indy time working Pass Pro drills but I try to steal as much time as I can to make sure I am working it.  Last season I was guilty about not working pass pro enough.  Now I make sure I include at least a little in every single practice.

I also try to steal 5-10 minutes segments pre-practice, and post-practice to get extra work in.  When we start working special teams I will use that time to get extra pass pro work in with the OL since the big guys aren’t usually on KO, KOR, or Punt.

Over the next couple weeks I will be posting video clips of some of my favorite pass protection drills.

Sled Punch:

We work flat down the sled, working to keep a good stagger, base and geenral pass pro demeanor.  As we shuffle through each bag, we get a Right hand punch, 2 hand punch, and Left hand punch on each bag.

We go down the line and can get a lot of kids moving at a time.  We all go right, and then we all come back to the left.

It helps to stay close to the sled so you have to punch, and kids can’t lean forward on the bag.

Medicine Ball Drill:

This is set up similar to a “mirror drill”.  I use cones/bags to make large gaps.  Players partner up across from each other and mirror one another.  The player holding the medicine ball controls the drill and the partner has to mirror/shadow them.  They will keep a good base, stagger, and pass pro demeanor while stepping side to side.  After a few steps they have to shoot the ball forward as powerfully as they can and snap the head back.

Most kids will want to snap the wrist out like a chest pass, or down like theyre shooting a basketball.  This flares the elbow out and weakens their punch.  We want to keep the hands and elbows in tight, and the thumbs up.  I have found that having the kids hold their hands out with thumbs UP for a second at the finish lets them see that they haven’t snapped their wrists and flared their elbows.

More Pass Pro Drills coming later this week!