The Best Speed and Agility Drills for Defensive Linemen

Become a faster and more explosive defensive lineman with these agility and speed drills.

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Defensive linemen are expected to disrupt the passing game, sack the quarterback and shut down the running game. (Check out the Ndamukong Rising series for some serious D-line training.) This is done by a combination of getting around or through the offensive linemen, tackling the running back before he can break out, and getting to the football. This article offers six speed and agility drills to help defensive linemen improve their on-field performance.

Sled or Resistance Band Sprints

Resisted sprints are important for D-linemen, because they build an explosive first step and enhance the kind of short yardage speed they need in the trenches.

  • Secure harness around waist with sled resistance behind you
  • Get into three- or four-point stance
  • Explode out of stance and sprint for specified distance; take an explosive first step, drive with knees and stay low to the ground
  • Repeat for specified reps

Sets/Distance: 6-8x5 yards

Resisted Partner Sprint

  • Stand up and get into ready position
  • Partner stands in front with hands on your shoulders
  • Sprint against resistance provided by partner for specified distance

Sets/Distance: 6-8x5 yards

Resisted Backpedal

This speed drill is important because defensive linemen get pushed back to open up holes for the running game. Like the Resisted Sprint drill, it can be performed by towing something or with a partner.

  • Secure harness around waist with resistance in front
  • Get into three- or four-point stance
  • Explode out of stance and backpedal for specified distance; keep hips low and pick up feet
  • Repeat for specified reps

Sets/Distance: 6-8x5 yards

Assisted Partner Backpedal

  • Stand up and get into ready position
  • Partner stands in front with hands on your shoulders
  • Explode out of stance and backpedal in control for specified distance with partner pushing you backwards
  • Repeat for specified reps

Sets/Distance: 6-8x5 yards

Quarterback Run Down

This agility drill develops the footwork needed to get around an offensive lineman and rush the quarterback. To perform, set up five cones as shown below.

  • Assume ready position with hands up at cone 1
  • Shuffle to cone 2; keep weight on the balls of feet, hips low and feet under hips
  • Spin around cone 2 to face cone 3
  • Explosively accelerate and sprint to cone 3
  • Repeat for specified reps

Sets/Reps: 3-5xdrill

Stop the Run

This agility drill develops the footwork needed to get to a running back who is about to break through the line. To perform, set up five cones as shown below.

  • Assume ready position with hands up at cone 1
  • Backpedal to cone 2; keep hips low and pick up feet
  • Spin around outside of cone
  • Explosively accelerate and sprint to cone 3
  • Repeat for specified reps

Sets/Reps: 3-5xdrill

For the last two drills, set up the cones on either side of center, depending on which side you play. To make the drills more realistic, begin in stance in front of cone 1 and have a partner act as an offensive lineman.


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: AGILITY TRAINING | DEFENSIVE LINE | RUNNING | SPRINT | FIRST STEP | DRILL | STANCE | WAIST | CONES | LINEMAN | HARNESS