Fundamental Defensive Backs Drills

Fundamental Defensive Backs drill can create success with repetition. Playing Defensive Back is an art and it must be practiced year around. Developing Defensive Backs takes time depending on the skill of the athlete you are working with.

I believe everything starts with a good stance, whether you are in a backpedal stance or open hip stance. I like to work from the ground up:

-Heel to toe instep

-Slight bend in knees

-Butt high (Hinge from hips)

-Nose over toes

-Arms in holster

Above you will see some good and decent looks at some stances. Pictures A & B are from open hip stances. Pictures C & D are from a backpedal stance.

Simple Drills

Here are some simple drills that I like to do initially in the beginning of spring ball and fall camp. Most if not all can be done from a backpedal or open hip position. If the defensive back understand the why and how to apply these simple drills in the picture of your defense, it will create success.

Get Offs

Get into a good stance Defensive Back stance, on coach command, take your read steps (3 slow steps for backpedal and 2 shuffles for open hip stance), then transition to full speed while upholding good form. Eyes should be on the coach throughout the entire rep. This drill is good for zone drops. You can also do this drill by mixing up the speed and tempo of the Defensive Backs

Coaching Points:


-Read Steps / Full Speed

-Smooth pedal or crossover run

-Graze the grass

-Chest over your toes


Break 45/90/180

These drills are great for a Defensive Back working on their transitions for different routes. Break 45 – I use this drill to simulate breaking on a slant. Break 90 – I use this drill to simulate breaking on an out route. Break 180 – I use to simulate a “Go” route. These drills can be run in several ways. For example, you can backpedal, open up their hips a certain direction and break, you could have them center field turn out of the Break 45 & 90 to simulate getting fooled on a route. These drills are good for zone and man breaks.

Coaching Points


-Read Steps

-Crossover Run / Backpedal

-Plant, Point, Drive


Weave Drill

The weave drill is a good one for man emphasis to keep leverage on the Wide Receiver, 1-High Post Safety, Quarters Safety. The key to the weave drill is to not turn swivel your butt. If we swivel our butt from side to side, it creates a longer distance for us to break on the Wide Receiver. Instead, we want to keep our hips square to the line of scrimmage and heel toe, heel toe to the direction we want to go. You can do this drill from a open hip crossover run as well. The coaching point on the open hip crossover run is to open and close your shoulders. For example, if I want to weave outward then open the upfield shoulder, if you want to weave in, then close your upfield shoulder.

Coaching Points


-Read Steps

-Backpedal / Crossover Run

-Hips Square / Open-Close Shoulders (Crossover Run)


Man to Man

Teaching man techniques takes time and practice as well. I believe in incorporating at least 10-15 minutes of my individual drill time into man each day, depending on how much man is in the game plan that week. Whether you teach mirror technique, motor out, or off man, it must be practiced daily. It is also important to understand where you help is with man coverages as well, as it could change the leverage (inside or outside) you play on the Wide Receiver. If you do have a jump press technique that is applicable when the Defensive Back has help over the top

Playing great man technique can be great because it can disrupt timing between the Quarterback and Wide Receiver. As we all know, it is hard to stop a Quarterback and Wide Receiver who are in sync with one another. Most Wide Receivers run their routes from point A (Start) to point B (End of route). We want the Wide Receiver to start at point and get him off his line to get to point B.

A few points that I like to cover with my Defensive Backs is:

-Takeaway a leverage – A lot of this is dependent on the coverage help and split of the Wide Receiver

-Eyes on leverage hip – The Defensive Backs eyes should be burning a hole through the Wide Receivers hip

-Feet, Hips, Hands (Press) – Once again it starts from the ground up. The Defensive Back must move their feet first, hips second, and hands come in last when applicable in press technique.

-Eye discipline – Keep eyes focused on the hip through short and intermediate routes to determine when the Wide Receiver will sink their hips. Once their hips sink, we sink.

The last part in the look and lean. This is something to practice daily. Look and lean is good for the “Go” ball and Post balls. The look and lean can be incorporated into the Get Off drill as well. Throwing a ball while performing the Get Off drill will help Defensive Backs become more comfortable in tracking the ball while it is in the air and making play than panic and cause a penalty.

Motor Drill

Defensive Back straddles the line, working small steps backwards while maintaining good pad level and arms in the holster. You can work a release after the Defensive Back works back for a few steps and mirror the release angle.

Mirror Drill

The mirror drill is your simple defensive basketball slide. Have the Wide Receiver in the drill work side to side, Defensive Back must maintain good pad level, eyes on the hips, and step replace. Do not want to hear any heel clicks.

Box Release Drill

This drill is good for Defensive Backs to understand that if I can get the Wide Receiver out of the box, I am disrupting timing. This is also a competitive drill to see has some wiggle about them too. Define a winning position for the Defensive Back and Wide Receiver. I usually give them a defensive call and they must execute the technique within the call to determine the win. Wide Receiver must stack the Defensive Back to win.


In conclusion, these are some of the basic drill that can be performed daily with your players. You can get creative with these drills as well to fit your defensive scheme and fundamentals as well.

Mark Watson

Defensive Backs Coach

University of South Dakota

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