Defensive Back Tips: Safety Run Support

After reading a run play, you are the last line of defense to stopping your opponent. Practice the “W” drill and get ready to make the tackle.

Safeties may play 10 to 15 yards off the line of scrimmage, but they need to be ready for their secondary responsibility: the run. There are four important areas of focus:

  1. Your initial read
  2. Tracking the runner
  3. Attacking the runner (inside hip – out)
  4. Getting under control to make the tackle

In the initial read, the safety — unlike the cornerback — needs to read the offensive line. Look at the helmet, or “hat,” of the offensive linemen. If they have a high hat, meaning they stand up taller, it is usually a pass play. If their hat is sitting low in a body position to block, it usually means it will be a run.

Once you plant your foot and head downhill, you want to start tracking the runner. Is the runner on the outside or inside? Which direction are the blockers heading? The path of the play will dictate your path to get into position to make the tackle.

Get your eyes focused on the inside hip of the runner. You want to attack them strategically, turning your direction to push them toward the sideline, using it as an additional defender.

As you come downfield to make a hit, transition from an out-of-control position into a controlled, balanced position. To do this, sink your hips and keep your feet shimmying or chopping with your arms back behind your hips, ready to make the tackle.

W DRILL

The W drill is a great way to work on these skills. Start with three cones placed in a line, about three to five yards apart. Next, place two additional cones five yards up the field. These two cones should be placed three to five yards apart from each other and should split the first three cones. If you were looking at the five cones from above, they would form the shape of a “W.”

Start the drill at the cone at the top right corner of the “W” with your back to the bottom of the “W,” in an athletic stance. Backpedal toward the next cone at the bottom of the “W.” As you hit that cone, plant your foot next to the cone driving forward toward the cone at the top middle of the “W.” You’ll then sprint to that cone and as you get close you’ll chop your feet to come into a balanced, controlled position, ready to make a tackle. When you get to that cone, begin backpedaling again toward the next cone in the “W.”  Again, when you hit that cone you will plant your foot and drive toward the last cone at the upper left of the “W.”  Come into balance, ready to make the tackle again.

Execute this drill in both directions, so that you backpedal and explode going right and left.

As the last line of the defensive, the safety is essential in run support. Practice your reads, footwork and body control so that you can contribute at a high level.