Football Drills for Receivers and Defensive Backs

Whether you’re on offense or defense, this series of drills can help boost your footwork and your catching.

Many players in youth football through the high school ranks will have to play offense and defense. This is often true for wide receivers who may need to pull double duty and also play defensive back. With only so much time to practice, it can be beneficial to work on drills that can help you on both sides of the ball.

High school coach Quincy Faison shared some drills with Pro Tips that can help benefit receivers, safeties and cornerbacks.

TOP OF THE ROUTE DRILL

One skill that you can work on that can be beneficial on offense and defense is your footwork. While many players want to use their speed to make plays, it can be just as important to work on your entire movement.

“Footwork is really important for any defensive back and, more importantly, for our wide receivers,” Faison says. “I stress to our teams that I don’t really care about speed. I care about running really good routes.”

To work on your footwork when running routes, try the Top of the Route Drill. This drill requires players to run through routes they may use during a game. However, the focus is to work on the acceleration coming out of the break.

“I stress to them about sticking each one of the turns, sticking each one of their cuts, making sure they are coming out on that second leg of the route as fast as they can. And that’s all about footwork,” Faison says.

SIT-UP DRILL

This is a good drill to help wide receivers and defensive backs work on their catching form. For this exercise, you’ll need a partner to throw you the ball.

To run through the Sit-Up Drill:

  • Lie flat on your back.
  • On the whistle, sit up at a 90-degree angle.
  • Get your hands out in front of you and catch the ball that your partner throws to you.

“Now the purpose of this drill is that it teaches [you] to not catch the ball with [your] chest,” Faison says. “[It teaches to] get the hands out and actually catch the ball in the point with two hands.”

W DRILL  

This drill can benefit players when they are on defense as a cornerback or safety. It focuses on your footwork and movement. Your movement will be in the shape of a “W” if viewed from overhead.

Before you start the drill, put three cones in a straight line with five yards in between each cone. These cones will act as the line of scrimmage. To run through the W Drill:

  • Start by backpedaling from the first cone.
  • On the command, change direction on a 45-degree angle up to the second cone.
  • Backpedal from the second cone.
  • Again, change direction on a 45-degree angle on the command up to the final cone.

“When [you] change directions on the 45-degree angle, we want [you] to stay low,” Faison says. “We don’t want [you] to come out of [your] pocket, and [you] want to drive back to the line of scrimmage.”

90-DEGREE ANGLE TURN DRILL

This is another drill you can work on to improve your footwork on defense. To perform the 90-Degree Angle Turn Drill:

  • Start at a cone that will represent the line of scrimmage.
  • On the command, backpedal about 10 steps.
  • Cut to either side.
  • Stick your hand out in front of you as if you are knocking a ball away from a receiver.

When running through the W Drill and the 90-Degree Angle Turn Drill, you want to be in the right defensive back stance.

“So, [you’re] not too high and not too low,” Faison says. “[You] have a great center of gravity.”

Looking for more Pro Tips to help boost your skills? Check out these tips on blitzing as a defensive back. On the offensive side of the ball, learn how to improve your blocking techniques as a wide receiver.