By: Josh Staph
"In the NFL, a wide receiver has to be able to catch the football, beat man or press coverage, and get in and out of a break quickly," Indianapolis Colts receivers coach Clyde Christensen says.
These same skills have made Christensen’s receiver corps the most impressive in NFL history.
Breaking records is commonplace at the RCA Dome these days. Marvin Harrison’s 143-catch season; three receivers with more than 1,000 yards receiving; and three receivers with more than 10 touchdowns in a season—these feats are undoubtedly causing unrest among opposing NFL secondaries.
Christensen shares the drills that helped accelerate Harrison, Reggie Wayne and Brandon Stokely into the record books. Although these receivers were solid when they arrived in Indianapolis, all have upped their yearly catch totals considerably.
The drills teach either physical or catching skills. The physical drills help a receiver reach full speed as quickly as possible. "We want to see you get to full speed quickly, change direction quickly and then get back to full speed quickly," Christensen says. "Our drills are geared towards getting a burst, then a break and then another burst."
While the physical drills train a receiver to get open quickly, Christensen’s catching drills use distraction techniques to help a receiver catch the ball after beating his man.
Christensen thinks a receiver should be able to reach full speed in seven yards, so all of his physical drills revolve around the 7-Yard Burst and Break. Advanced variations are added to increase the degree of difficulty and disorient the receiver.
"Anyone who has a coordination or quickness issue can benefit from these drills," he says..
The Colts perform physical drills with cones in reps of 50-100 out of season and 25-50 in season, dividing the reps between sides and altering the direction of the break toward and away from the quarterback. "Drop the hips down and forward, plant and redirect, and then get out of it and right back to full speed," Christensen instructs..
7-Yard Burst and Break
Burst to the cone and break back at a 45-degree angle for three yards to catch the ball.
7-Yard Burst and Break with Agile Bags
Burst over four agile bags, then break at the cone.
7-Yard Burst and Break with Release
Use your hands and feet to get around a large dummy off the line. Get vertical as quickly as possible.
7-Yard Burst and Break Ladder
After breaking back, immediately get back upfield with the next burst. "The bursting and breaking and bursting and breaking helps us pack four drills into one and gives the players a little conditioning," says Christensen.
7-Yard Burst and Break with Softball
Reach forward in front of your plant foot, pick up a softball and toss it to a partner. "This drill forces you to drop your hips and lean forward before the break, giving the defender the illusion that you are going deep," Christensen says.
7-Yard Burst and Break with Zigzag and Agile Bags
Zigzag, then burst over the agile bags and break back at the cone.
7-Yard Burst and Break with Zigzag
Sprint to cones set up at 45-degree angles, then complete the 7-Yard Burst and Break. The Zigzag develops change of direction skills.
Jugs Machine Routine
This routine consists of 30-40 catches and should take three to four minutes to complete before practice. If you don’t have a jugs machine, have a partner throw you the balls. The Colts complete five catches of each variation.
Face the machine and catch low balls.
Over the Shoulder
Face away from the machine and catch five balls over each shoulder.
Face the machine and catch hard balls at chest level.
Off the Body
Face away from the machine at a 90-degree angle. Catch balls shot out in front of you away from your body. Repeat facing the opposite direction.
Walking Hard Balls
Face the machine and walk toward it while catching hard balls at chest level.
Receivers have to think about changing directions, catching the ball, and keeping their feet in the end zone with other players around them. So Christensen uses a distraction method. Receivers are thrown eight balls per repetition as they run back and forth behind dummies.