Pass Protection Drills
Originally Published in the book: Complete Offensive Line by Rick Trickett - Human Kinetics
The shuffle mirror is also known as mirror dodge or chase the rabbit. Two cones are needed. Set the cones 6 or 7 yards apart. Draw a chalk line or use a yard line out on the football field. The offensive lineman can crowd the line but must never go over.
Our coaching staff developed this program in 2001. We are going into our 12th season with our program, in two different schools. What I am going to talk to you about today is the things we are doing now, as we go into the 2012 season. Our program has evolved, and we have changed it a little bit every year. If you like the basis of the program, you can adapt it to whatever you want for your program. We started our system because we were having a real problem getting kids to show up to the off-season workouts. If they did show up, they would come whenever they felt like it. We started very simply by taking attendance in the weight room and giving kids two points if they showed up on time and stayed for the whole program each day. We gave them one point if they showed up at all. If they were two minutes late, they were late.
On the command "go," the defender moves quickly between the two cones. The offensive lineman leads with his direction-side foot. For example, if the defender goes to the lineman's right, the lineman will lead with the right foot. This is not a hop or pound. The lineman shuffles squarely to the "rabbit," mirroring him perfectly. The lineman must keep his hands locked behind his back all the way through the drill. This will help the player learn to control his upper body. When the defender stops to go in another direction, the lineman plants his play-side foot and leads back out with the opposite foot. The defender works the offensive lineman from cone to cone. The defender should stay square to the cones and to the offensive lineman. This enables the blocker to read the defender's numbers. The defender might turn slightly, but he should try to stay frontal as much as possible.
The biggest challenge for the lineman will be shifting to the lead foot. The lineman may need to slow down until he gets the feel of leading with the near foot. He should step to the right with the right foot, shift his weight, and then step with the right foot again. If the lineman is moving to the right and the "rabbit" suddenly changes to move to the left, the lineman must step with his left foot to change directions. He must not step under his body with the right foot. Once the lineman has a feel for the drill, he should turn it loose and let go. Being efficient in the footwork—maintaining quick and active feet—is the most important element of the drill. The lineman must not get the shoulders leaning to the right when going right or to the left when going left. He should try to let his shoulders ride between his legs and should stay as controlled as possible without letting his body lean.
Linemen can use this drill to find their center of gravity and balance. The lineman gets into his stance as in the shuffle mirror drill. He puts his right hand behind his back and grabs his left wrist. He gets into a great staggered stance. He should stagger the foot back according to the side of the offensive line he plays on. The partner puts one hand on the lineman's shoulder on the same side as the lineman's back leg and puts his other hand behind the lineman's neck (figure 12.2).
When the lineman gets in a great stance, he freezes in the stance. He should lock his core. When the partner pulls the lineman forward, the lineman posts forward and goes with the pull, taking two post steps forward but keeping good body position. When the partner pushes the lineman back, the lineman plants his feet and presses his shoulder against the pushing hand. The key to the drill is to be strong in the lower back and fight to stay in that locked-in stance. The drill starts when the partner pushes the lineman's shoulder back. The blocker may have a tendency to let the shoulder turn—he must not do this! No matter what pressure is put on him, the lineman must work hard to keep his shoulders square and to maintain a great stance as much as possible.
When the partner pushes on the lineman's shoulder, the partner should release the pressure on the neck. When he pulls on the lineman's neck, the partner should release the pressure on the shoulder. He should try to pull the lineman forward (not down on the neck), trying to yank the lineman out of his stance. When the partner pushes the lineman backward, the partner should try to raise the lineman up and make him weak at that point of pressure. The partner needs to stand tall and help make this the best drill possible. Sometimes partners have a tendency to lie down and pull down on the offensive lineman. The drill has to be run by the defender. The coach should make sure the defender doesn't get lazy and hurt the blocker. The defender has to stay tall.
Pressure hop is a drill used to practice stopping a bull rusher. This drill is usually performed with two offensive players and two defensive players. First, the defensive player should be fitted into the chest of the offensive blocker. The defender fits his hands into the blocker's armpits and executes a drive block (figure 12.3). The offensive blocker is upright in his football stance with his hands on the outsides of the partner's shoulders. He should have a slight bend in his knees. Once the defender starts to drive block the offensive lineman, the lineman holds the defender as long as possible and then executes a short hop backward with both feet. Once the offensive player hops back, he again tries to hold off the rusher as long as he can until he has to perform a short hop backward and reset again. The two players should do this for four or five hops and then stop. There should be a lot of straining going on during this drill. When taking the short hop backward, the lineman should execute a swap of the hips like when doing a power clean. He should drop his hips and reset.
The defensive partner starts with a drive block at three-fourths strength. Once both players are able to perform the drill well, the defensive partner comes at the offensive man at full speed.
The offensive man needs to lean slightly forward with knees slightly bent. The defender should fit up with his face in the numbers, bow his neck, get his hands in the armpits, and maintain a flat back. He should then execute the drive block. The defender should apply pressure on the blocker at all times so he learns to stop the rusher, reset his hips, and be ready to stop him again. This drill is a great conditioning drill and will force the player to really strain.