Drills: Exercises For Offensive Linemen

Photo: Fotojopa 
Good offensive linemen are vital to any football team's success. Throughout the game, they must block during offensive plays, and particularly avert defensive strikes on the quarterback, forming a protective pocket for him during passing plays. In fact, the left tackle is often one of the highest-paid players on an NFL team, because he protects the quarterback's blind side, defending the signal-caller from danger he can't see. Lineman improves the quality of their play through drills that mimic certain aspects of the game.

Sled Ride
No matter what level of football you play, the most basic drill for offensive linemen involves hitting the sled. Whether it's the NFL, college or beginning football, the blocking sled is a fixture on the practice field. A simple beginning drill for an offensive lineman is getting down in a three-point stance a yard or two in front of the sled and driving into the padding. This is an effective simulation for run blocking an opposing defender and it helps strengthen leg drive.

Blind Push
This drill builds skills a lineman needs to protect the quarterback when he drops back to attempt a pass, while spontaneously reacting to hits from defensive players. Begin with one player in the middle of circular area about 15 feet around; he should be standing in a semi-upright posture, eyes closed, the Football Drills website instructs. Two fellow offensive linemen, acting as defensive players, move around the circle holding shields. When prompted by training staff, one of the circling players rushes in, attempting to knock the lineman off balance. The drill continues for 10 charges

Trapping Exercise
This exercise teaches linemen to block defenders at an angle, to open up a wider running space. It is performed with three cones, one yard of space between each, spread out at a forward and diagonal angle. At the farthest cone stands an acting defender, who is holding a blocking shield. The lineman gets into stance and, at the coach's prompt, begins to drive forward along the line of cones. Simultaneously, the defending player attempts to push into the lineman's path.

Guarding Defenders
This drill teaches a lineman to match the movements of his opposing defender. A lineman faces an acting defender on the line of scrimmage. They both stand between two sets of three to five cones, placed several yards downfield from one another. At the coach's whistle, the defender tries to run forward while moving spontaneously from side to side. The lineman is responsible for mirroring his counterpart, matching the various twists and turns of the defender's running path. The drill goes on for five to 10 seconds. Afterward, the coaching staff takes time to give appropriate feedback.

Running Drive Block
This drill teaches a lineman to meet his defender head-on. The lineman faces a defender set several yards back from the line. On "go," the lineman rushes directly at his opponent, who is also running forward. As the men meet, the lineman presses both palms into the defender's chest and "digs" into the dirt to gain ground. Keeping both elbows in tight, the lineman presses the protective padding of his opponent upward in an attempt to upset the defender's balance. This engagement is held for several seconds, stopping only when the coach calls "time."

Start and Stop
The freeze drill helps offensive linemen practice footwork and balance. On the coach's whistle, linemen take a step or two out of their stance and stop. This allows the coach to see whether the linemen are moving the right way and whether their strides off the whistle are too short or too long. If the footwork is flawed, an offensive lineman can be slow to deliver a block and balance is likely to be compromised.

Lateral Quickness
Try the side shuffle for a lateral quickness exercise. Start in a two-point stance (your feet on the ground and bending at the knees), and shuffle your feet to one side. If you shuffle to the right, start with your right foot so that your feet will not cross over each other. This will help your balance. To quantify this exercise, set up cones 10 yards apart. Start at one, and shuffle to the other and back. Check a stopwatch to see how you did.

Nikola Davidovic