When you think of quarterback drills or an off-season program, you probably think about throwing the football and lifting weights. Although these are two things a QB must do to get better, there are other areas of focus that some QB's don't even think about. Here are 10 off-season tips on how to improve your QB game next season.
10. Foot speed
Quick feet help you move around in the pocket to elude pressure and reset to throw the football. Taking time in the off-season to develop quick feet will help your durability and give you the ability to stretch the pocket when you're under pressure.
9. Throwing accuracy
Accuracy is what gets the ball to your receivers. Practicing accuracy with your receivers in the off-season teaches you where your guys want the ball placed. A few ways to train throwing accuracy: hit your receivers in stride while they run their routes; practice passing from the pocket to the sideline, trying to place the ball in spots where you know a defender cannot make a play; and throw at fixed targets while rolling out.
8. Understanding defensive coverages
As a QB, you have to know defenses. You should understand coverages—study them, know them—and be able to recognize them before and after the snap. Great QBs recognize a play before it starts. That skill is developed during the off-season. Study defenses on film and on the chalkboard, and know what routes work against different types of coverages.
7. Rotational core strength
We all know guys who want great looking 6-pack abs, but let's face reality: you only get those if your diet is healthy and junk-free. Besides, when you're wearing pads and a jersey, coaches and fans care more about your performance on the field than what's under the uniform. Anyway, developing rotational core strength is extremely important for quarterbacks. Rotational core exercises not only strengthen your core, they also increase the velocity of your throws. Strengthening your core can also save your shoulder from wear and tear. Keeping your midsection strong and capable of transferring high force is really important.
6. Timing of throws
Putting the ball where only your receiver can catch it is pretty darn good. Knowing when to put the ball there for him to make the catch is what timing is all about. The game is faster, and QBs have less time in the pocket. Get together with your receivers in the off-season after a lift or film session, and work on getting your timing down. Know your guys. Each receiver is different. Getting your timing down for more efficient throws will keep defenders from making a play on the ball, leading to more success in the passing game. Remember, a QB generally has only three or four seconds in the pocket, so perfecting your timing is crucial.
5. Weight room
There's no better place than the weight room for a QB to show up and show off his other side. Get after it, get stronger and become more powerful. Focus on a few key areas: lower-body power, upper-body strength, shoulder endurance and grip strength. When you work your lower body, anything is good. Upper-body workouts for QBs should involve using dumbbells. Using a bar will subject your rotator cuff to risk of injury. Using dumbbells saves the rotator cuff from being put in an awkward position. Grip strength is crucial for throwing the ball. The stronger your grip, the more control you have on the ball and the better your chances of throwing harder and farther. Perform extra grip-strength exercises like the "Chin-Up Hold" or squeeze rice or sand in a bucket with your throwing hand.
What better way to learn from your mistakes than in the film room. Pay attention to detail. Watch as much film as you can of your team's practices and games. From your practice films, take what you need to work on most—offensive linemen steps, blocking schemes, blitz pickups, route running, etc. Pick up as much knowledge as possible from watching film, and find ways to correct mistakes or "busted plays." When watching film of your opponents, notice tendencies, how certain players align themselves and where certain players are on different packages. Every detail counts.
3. Know your playbook
You must know everything in your playbook. It is your bible. You're the field general, and you must know everyone's alignment and assignment. Understanding your entire playbook can also increase trust between you and your offensive coach, potentially leading him to give you more control of changing plays while on the field.
2. Audibles/signal calling
Once you've mastered your playbook, sit with your offensive coaches and skill players and come up with an audible system. The ability to change plays at the line is huge. Not every offensive play will work against every defensive scheme, so developing an audible system will improve your team's offense. I know this sounds extreme, but hey—if you want to make it to the next level, you've gotta do it.
What is a football team without the leadership qualities of the starting QB? If you are not the leader of your team on and off the field, you are not trying to step up your game. All the great QBs display great leadership on and off the field. Watch extra game film, spend extra time after practice throwing passes to your guys to show your team you're committed. The more respect you get from your teammates, the more trust you gain from them. Be accountable and take responsibility for your mistakes. You will learn more from them than from your successes. Be willing to lead in every aspect of football and life.
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