Though a linebacker’s responsibilities can vary widely depending on scheme, their number one priority is usually making tackles. Linebackers frequently lead the team in tackles due to their skill set and their positioning on the field. Since tackling is a linebacker’s main responsibility, the following five drills focus largely on that skill. Perform them on a regular basis to build a strong foundation that will put you in position to be successful.
*Note: the following drills make use of the Shadowman tackling system, a dynamic piece of equipment that allows players to practice tackling at game speed without the risk of injury inherent in player-to-player contact. Learn more at ShadowmanSports.com.
1. Hitting on The Rise Drill
“Hitting on the rise” is a phrase that often gets uttered by coaches when instructing tackling. What it essentially means is that a tackler should explode up and through the tackle. This produces more power and makes the tackle harder to break. This drill works both on the fundamentals of tackling and emphasizes the idea of “hitting on the rise.”
Began with your front knee up. Hands are “in the holsters” by your sides, ready to explode. Your eyes and chest should be up.
On the whistle, explode your hands and hips into the dummy. Step forward with your back leg. Keep your eyes and chest up.
Drive your feet while extending your hips. Keep your eyes and chest up.
Carry the dummy for 2-4 yards before setting it down. Perform four to six total reps.
2. Weave and Tackle Drill
Now that we’ve worked on tackling from a kneeling position, let’s work on tackling from the feet. A linebacker must navigate through a sea of blockers before he can get to the ballcarrier. This drill requires the player to weave through two bags before he makes a tackle.
Begin in an athletic position with your knees slightly bent, your chest up and your eyes forward.
On the whistle, accelerate forward to the right of the bag. Keep your pad level low and your eyes up. Stick your foot into the ground to make a lateral cut to your left and continue running downhill.
Come out of the bags with low pad level and your eyes on the dummy. Accelerate to get in tackling position.
Run through the dummy, hit on the rise and make the tackle. Perform six total reps, alternating the side you start on.
3. Track and Tackle Drill
Linebackers have to be able to track a ballcarrier through traffic until they’re in position to make a tackle. The technique used to track a ballcarrier as he runs left or right is known simply as “tracking.” This drill reinforces proper tracking technique and ends when the player makes a form tackle.
Line up roughly 6-8 yards away from the dummy. Once the dummy begins moving, move to keep pace with it while keeping your hips and shoulders square. Move on a diagonal path, aiming where the dummy will be—not where it is now.
Once you’re within a few yards, stick your foot in the ground and start running downhill.
Once you’re in position to make the tackle, place your lead foot in front of the ball carrier and fire your arms around the dummy while making contact with your shoulder.
Drive through the dummy to make the tackle.
4. Shed and Tackle Drill
A linebacker’s job would be easy if no one were trying to block him. To be an effective linebacker, a player must be adept at fighting off blocks and staying on his feet while in pursuit of the ballcarrier. This drill works on a player’s ability to fight off a low block before making a tackle.
A coach with a blocking shield stands in the center of the drill. A player stands five yards in front of him. The dummy is set up five yards behind the coach. On the whistle, the player begins his pursuit of the ballcarrier. Once the player is within about two yards of the coach, the coach throws a blocking shield toward his knees. The player must knock the shield down while avoiding the block.
Once the block has been avoided, the player must locate the ballcarrier and take the right pursuit angle by running to where the dummy will be. As the player approaches the dummy, he should keep his eyes up and his pad level low.
Make contact by placing your lead foot in front of the dummy and driving your feet through the tackle.
5. Run and Rush Drill
A linebacker’s responsibilities occasionally call for him to rush the passer. This drill starts by making a player run through bags and finishes with the player executing a sack-strip tackle on the dummy. The exact arrangement of the bags at the beginning of the drill can vary. If you want to make it more of an agility drill, you can use two sets of bags. If not, you can use one sets of bags. You can even replace the bags with something like a speed ladder if you’d like.
After you’ve completed the agility portion of the drill, you’re ready to rush the dummy. Accelerate towards the dummy with low pad level.
Do not slow down as you approach the dummy. The closer you get, the faster you run. As you get within striking distance, use one arm to secure the tackle while bringing your other arm over the top to force a fumble. The overhand swipe should be violent. Aim for the dummy’s arm, not the ball.
Drive through the tackle, bringing the dummy down. Immediately look to secure the football if you did indeed force a fumble.