4 Drills to Progressively Improve Pass Protection

Introduction to improving the pass protection

Several components go into becoming an elite offensive line. It requires the knowledge and understanding of the game, great technique, the ability to recognize and react, and a gritty mentality. Obviously, when it comes to pass protection the offensive line’s job is to give the quarterback as much time as possible so he can make the correct read and throw.

This report will cover the drills you can incorporate in practice on a daily basis to improve the offensive line’s ability to successfully do their job. The drills below are set up as a progression, working on separate parts of the pass protection technique and building on top of each other.

FAST BACKS

This drill is designed to work on creating separation and snapping the upper body back out of a stance. Out of a three point stance, have a bag close to touching the head of the player that is up. On the go signal, the player will get a big chest while punching the bag and creating separation without moving their feet. The will feel their weight transition from the front to foot to the back foot. We work both right handed and left handed stances with all our guys, and go two to three reps before rotating.

Once this drill is introduced it can be a high tempo drill and a good warm-up that allows for each player to get a lot of reps in a short amount of time.

Coaching Points:

  • Feet should stay in the ground as much as possible.
  • Punch with palm of the hands, thumbs pointing up.
  • Punch at a slightly upward angle
    • If the punch angle is down, there’s most likely too much forward lean. If the angle is up too far, it is most likely due to too much bend in the knees. This is not in a good position to be able to move.
  • Back should be straight with a slight arc back and weight balanced with all cleats in the ground.
  • Bag should be closer to guys with shorter arms (adjust position accordingly).

To study film of this drill, click on the video below:

MIRROR-DODGE

The purpose of the Mirror-Dodge drill is to get the feet moving while also working on good pass setting demeanor. Each player that is up will put a post foot on a line and try to keep that post foot there for the duration of the drill. We will work both feet as post feet as we rotate through. This helps players be more comfortable setting both ways. We also start with the players hands behind their back, emphasizing a big chest. The defensive player should move, changing directions, forcing the offensive player to mirror that movement with quick feet, staying in front of the defender.

A punch component can be added easily to this drill, working on timing of the punch as well.

Coaching points:

  • Quick, short steps
  • No hopping, keep feet in the ground as much as possible
  • Stay square to the line
  • Big chest, slight arc in the back
  • Work on being able to react quickly to change of direction, don’t get caught off balance
  • Should stay in a good demeanor the whole time
  • Upper body should have minimal movement

To study film of this drill, click on the video below:

PASS UMBRELLA

Pass umbrella is the next step in the progression. It combines sets and posts, punches, and reaction time to the mix. One lineman is up with three on defense with bags. On the go, the lineman will take a set, stay square and have his feet moving. A coach will point and the defenders of which one to come at the lineman. The lineman will then have to react accordingly, whether it’s a set, a post, or stay in the middle and defeat the bull rush, and then deliver a punch to the bag and reload to the middle position with his feet still active. This is a good drill to combine the different components and work on recognition and reaction, using vision to pick up defenders while using good technique.

Coaching Points:

  • Stay square
  • Use your feet to get there, don’t lunge
  • Keep feet active
  • Create separation on punch, don’t allow defender to get into your chest

To study film of this drill, click on the video below:

5-Second Fight

Possibly the biggest component of pass protection is having a mentality that you’re not going to get beat. The average snap-to-pass time is around 3 seconds and I teach our offensive line that if we give the quarterbacks 5 seconds on any pass play they are going to be able to make a play. This drill is to have linemen get a feel for how long 5 seconds is while they are blocking. We have three linemen up at a time, a center and a linemen on each side. A defender with a bag is in front of each offensive player.

It’s important for the defense to give effort in this drill and make it challenging. We will always work on technique but having the right mentality and giving great effort is just as important.

Coaching Points:

  • Stay between the defender and the QB
    • Work on understanding and feeling the pocket, and knowing where you are in relation to the QB and his launching point
  • Active feet
  • Inside hands
    • If the target is missed on a punch, refit the hands inside
  • Finish the block,
    • If defender tries to run up-field, drive him up and away from the QB

To study film of this drill, click on the video below:

Conclusion

Repetition is important. Drilling technique to the point where the players don’t have to think about it. It becomes a habit can be the difference between winning a block and giving up a sack. The drills discussed can create a progression and be used to help new linemen learn technique and mentality. For inexperienced offensive linemen, these drills can be simplified so that they are can work on very specific aspects of pass protection. For the more experienced players, these drills can be built up and be more comprehensive, working on different aspects at the same time. These drills can also be adjusted depending on what techniques you’d like to use for your linemen.

 

By Matthew Keith
Offensive Line Coach/Strength & Conditioning Coordinator
College of St. Scholastica (MN)

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