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DL: 1-on-1 Block Reactions


About the Author:  Derek Prather is Defensive Line Coach/Special Teams Coordinator for Trine University in Angola, IN.  He has made previous stops at Doane College as the Defensive Line Coach as well as an Internship at Stanford University.  Contact him at and follow him on twitter at @Coach_Prather.  

1 on 1 Run Block Reactions

In the game of football, the battle begins upfront. Creating consistency amongst the defensive line is a determining factor in the success of a defensive unit. Keeping the reads simple, yet detailed, will allow for defensive linemen to react more quickly and not try to see the whole play at once. We will key the offensive linemen, and see the snap peripherally. Maintaining focus on our man, on key, will tell us everything we need to know.

Keys in defeating run blocks:

  • Key the screws of the OL’s helmet
  • On snap, short step at MOK; 2nd step will react based on key
  • Strike & separate from blocker
  • Shed block

Some defensive linemen have a tendency to do too much, or look beyond their keys for play recognition. There are drills that emphasize key reads, reactions, and simply focus on their responsibility. One of the drills I use as a cornerstone in teaching defensive linemen is 1 on 1 run block reactions. I will work in some variation of 1 on 1 run block reaction at every practice. This drill is used to help build confidence in reads and designate a focus on the snap.

Types of Blocks:

  1. Base
  2. Reach
  3. Down

Working 1 on 1 run reactions can help “slow the game down” for your players, but must use slight variations in the drill to keep complacency out of it. Adding a second blocker and working 2 on 1 run reads is beneficial in working the double team and back block. Anytime you can use offensive linemen in the drill, will give a better overall look for the defensive linemen. Also, I will use 1 on 1 run reactions to show progression and then carry it over into team periods. This has been important in helping defensive linemen understand what their role is on the field.

Block reaction drill work is not a new idea, but you can focus on all aspects of defending the run game.

Coaching points:

  • Proper Alignment & Stance
  • Eye Discipline
  • Steps
  • Strike & Separation
  • Block Escape
  • Finish

Working 1 on 1 run reactions can give you an opportunity to individualize your instruction across your players.  Overall, 1 on 1 run drills has been beneficial in the overall execution of the defensive line in the run game. Schemes can vary from week to week, but the game stays the same for us upfront.

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