NFL Offseason: What We Can Learn from Key Training Camp Drills
Training camp starts in just a couple more weeks and will feature drills that help the NFL talent hone some of their minor fundamental skills for the coming season. Training camp drills are very similar and—a lot of times—completely the same as drills that are used during the season.
These drills are designed to have the players hone the skills that, while minor in nature, affect everything they do. They are primarily related to footwork; and following will be just a quick breakdown (with videos) of a couple training camp drills that fans will see when they visit camps around the league.
Quarterback Footwork Drill: Repeated 15-Step Drop Backs
The absolute most important part of a quarterback's throwing mechanics is his footwork. With poor footwork, the quarterback can't get to his proper depth to read the defense properly and set for his throw quick enough to be effective.
The repeated drop backs can be taxing and are used as ways to assist in tweaking fundamentals. As seen early in the video, the quarterback is lifting his left leg higher while he is dropping back as a way to train his body to know that he us supposed to always have his left leg in front.
Things to look for in scouting are how tall a quarterback stands, how quick they can shuffle their feet and get to the end of the drill, and—most importantly—that they are keeping their head up. The best players will have great posture. Their eyes will be up reading the defense, and their feet will have them dropping back five yards quickly.
Wide Receivers Comeback Routes Drill
This drill is extremely simple in nature, as it consists of four dots on the field that the player needs to run around to do some quick comeback routes. Then, the player lifts his head up, throw his hands up and catches the ball. The simplicity of the drill is what makes it great, though.
A hitch is part of every NFL offense, and the players who can run the hitch well can add it to their repertoire at the end of certain routes to throw corners and safeties off. Another thing that it can help with is catching the ball in traffic, and providing a QB with confidence in a receiver's route.
When scouting players on this drill, it's always important first and foremost to see the players catch every ball thrown their way. Another thing to watch is their feet. This may sound like a broken record here, but footwork is the most important technical skill for any NFL position.
Defensive Line Sled Drills
Defensive lineman need to have excellent lean and hands when they explode out of their stance. This drill is very simple: Stay as low as you can, burst out of the stance and get hands on the pads, then do it again to simulate shedding blocks.
When scouting players in this drill, always look for the ones that have good hand control and can keep their pad level low. While it's always good to explode off of the ball, the best pass rushers don't have to be the most explosive at the snap.
Another thing to look at is how quick they can pop out and reset. This is important in case these guys get a false jump and are possibly heading offsides, as someone who can reset quickly will be able to hide his mistake of jumping too early.
Linebacker Drill: Short Chain, 2 Rings, Knocking a Dummy
This drill is mainly for linebackers. It's a way to train the feet to keep moving in short spaces, take long swooping side steps when needed, and to explode quickly once there is a clear shot. Essentially, this is a pass rushing drill and in-traffic run-stuffing drill.
The early part of the drill starts out with the player doing short, choppy steps through the rope ladder that is on the ground. This trains them to keep their feet moving when stuck in traffic and to maintain the short choppy steps needed when locked up with a blocker, or right before sliding from an 'A'-gap to a 'B'-gap on a blitz.
Wide horizontal steps around the curves are used in actual plays when there is a pass. Early in the play, the defender realizes it's a pass and he is covering the route as a transition step from standing still to a full sprint.
Another way the step is used is in delay—disguised blitzes into a gap that he wasn't lined up over, again as a transition step from the short choppy ones to the full sprint.
The full sprint and then knocking of the bag at the end doesn't really have too much to do with the intention of the drill as a whole—other than it's a linebacker drill and linebackers like to hit things at full speed.
One thing to notice when looking at players in this drill is how quick they can transition their steps from the short and choppy to the long and wide steps, and then to the instant sprint. It's a mental test of the player's ability to switch gears, and the best players are able to go from one style to the next without missing a beat.
Scott Carasik is an NFL draft and Atlanta Falcons Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He is also the Falcons analyst at Drafttek and also runs the NFL Draft Website ScarDraft.com and the host of Kvetching Draftniks Radio.