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Getting Defensive Linemen to the Point of Attack Faster

For Chrispin Johnson and most football coaches, developing defensive linemen who can create pressure up front is a priority. One way Johnson works with his linemen is through the shoulder reads drill, a simple but highly effective way to train D-linemen.

Johnson, a defensive line coach in Orlando, uses this drill so the D-linemen can learn how to read the shoulder of the offensive linemen.

So how does it work?

It starts with a pair of O-lineman getting in their stance as if they were the guard and tackle. The defensive player then lines up and gets down into a three-point stance so he is directly between the two O-linemen.

As the D-lineman is getting ready for the snap, he should focus on the O-linemen's shoulders. If the O-linemen's shoulders move away from the D-lineman, the D-lineman should move forward and attempt to block the gap created by the O-linemen. At the same time, the D-lineman should be shuffling his feet and keeping his eyes on what is happening in the backfield.

“This teaches lineman to use hands, eyes and feet,” Johnson said. “I always tell our linemen that they have two sets of eyes: One set is our hands and the other set is our true eyes. Using our hands to feel our keys and our eyes to see our assignments makes sure we do our job.”

This drill can be flipped so players can experience the drill as if they are playing on the left or right side of the defensive line.

The third variation is the shoulder straight ahead. This says that the run is coming at the D-lineman, so he does not need to read the shoulders of the O-linemen. The D-lineman simply moves straight ahead to fill any gap and force the running back to cut away from that gap. 

Johnson uses the shoulder reads drill to grade his linemen. The drill teaches linemen proper fundamentals.

“I have noticed that our linemen are faster to the point of attack because they know their alignment and stance,” Johnson said. “They understand their keys and their assignments.”

When the defensive line is stout, the entire team can thrive.

“If it is pass and the defensive line pressures the QB we can cause a bad pass, we allow the defensive backs to not have to stay in coverage too long and the best part is we can get the ball back,” Johnson said “If it is a run we must have gap sound defense with hip depth causes tackles for loss.”

From GameChanger and Rolando Rosa

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