To be an elite running back, you must be able to do it all. An RB who can help with pass protection, avoid turnovers and reliably catch the ball is much more valuable than one whose only skill is taking handoffs. Whether you’re a coach or a player who wants to improve, check out these four drills from the Miami Dolphins and USA Football, all focused on running back skills.
Pass Protection Running Back Drills
Many running backs leave the field on third-and-long situations. Why? Because they’re a liability in pass protection. These two drills work on running back pass protection technique.
Simple Punch Drill
- Line up in an athletic stance—feet slightly wider than shoulder-width, quarter-squat, hands up, head back.
- Two teammates holding agility bags stand across from you, one lined up on your right shoulder, the other on your left shoulder.
- On “go,” punch the bag to your right. To deliver a good, solid punch, keep your elbows in and your thumbs up.
- After punching the first bag, immediately retract the punch, rotate your torso and deliver a punch to the bag on your left.
- Alternate quickly punching the two bags until the end of the drill.
- Don’t shuffle between the bags. Instead, pivot your feet and rotate your torso.
- Make sure to keep your butt down, elbows in and thumbs up throughout the drill.
Two Pass Protection Set Drill
Now that you’ve worked on the punch, it’s time to hit on the move. A good back is expected to pick up blitzes coming from all over the field. This drill works on picking up different blitzes and proper pass pro technique.
- Set up two agility bags in a gate about 2 yards apart.
- Start to the left of the gate, about 2 yards back.
- Two defenders holding bags set up on the other side of the gate, one about a yard back from the gate, the other a yard to the right of the gate.
- On “go,” step up into the gate and meet the blitzer in the hole. Hit the bag with a firm punch and stop his progress.
- Immediately retreat to meet the blitzer coming from outside the gate.
- Deliver a punch to the outside blitzer and shuffle with him as he tries to work outside.
- Keep a wide base throughout the drill, use good punch technique and hit on the rise.
- Do this drill from both sides of the gate so you can work on pass protection to both your left and right.
A back who can reliably catch the ball adds an important dimension to his game. This drill hones the focus required to snag receptions and trains the agility needed to break tackles and rack up yards after a catch.
- Set up three agility bags about a yard apart.
- Line up 5 yards from the bags.
- One partner with a hand shield stands right in front of the bags; another stands about 6 yards behind them.
- A quarterback stands off to the side, ready to throw the ball to you.
- On “go,” runs toward the bags while looking for the ball from the QB.
- Catch the ball and immediately tuck it away. As soon you catch the ball, partner #1 hits you with the shield.
- Fight through the contact and run through the agility bags; keep your eyes on partner #2, who will move to the right or the left, simulating a downfield block.
- Read the block and cut to the opposite side.
Ball Security Gauntlet
You can never be a great back if you’re constantly fumbling the football. This drill helps you learn the technique and skills required to keep the ball secure and avoid turnovers.
- Start with a football in each hand and a defensive player on either side of you, each with both hands on the ball.
- Behind the defensive players, five agility bags are set up a yard apart, and two partners with shields stand in front of them. A third partner sets up 5 yards behind the bags.
- Employ great ball security technique—keep the ball high and tight and use five points of pressure.
- On “go,” the two defensive players try to strip the ball away from you for a couple of seconds before allowing you to move forward.
- Once you get past the two defenders, run toward the bags. As you enters the agility bags, your two partners hit you with their shields.
- Run through the contact using proper footwork to get through the agility bags.
- Burst toward partner #3, who will jump to the left or right, giving you a lane the opposite way. Cut off that partner to finish the drill.