Football Defensive Back Drills List

Football Defensive Back Drills List

Defensive backs are the stars of the defense. Every play, they line up against elite receivers and running backs, so they need to have skill and speed to keep up. Although they are not as celebrated as their offensive counterparts, defensive backs are some of the most talented and athletic players on the team. Here is a list of drills to help reinforce all of the core defensive back skills, including tackling, coverage, and making reads.

List of Defensive Back Drills

  • 90-Degree Break Drill
  • Backpedal Shuffle Break on Ball
  • Cushion Drill
  • DB Zone Break
  • Line Drill
  • Short Box Drill
  • Stay with the Receiver
  • Stop the Run
  • Turn and Sprint
  • W Drill

90-Degree Break Drill

The 90-degree break drill consists of a series of backpedals and shuffles. The player starts by backpedaling a short distance before shuffling to their left at a 90-degree angle. They then backpedal again, shuffle to their right, backpedal, and shuffle to their left. Finally, the player backpedals one last time, shuffles to their left again, and then sprints forward toward the start of the drill.

Backpedal Shuffle Break on Ball

The backpedal shuffle break on ball has the defensive back line up facing the coach from five yards out. The player starts off in a backpedal before they shuffle to their left. The coach then throws the ball past the player, at which point they must turn out of their shuffle and sprint at a 45-degree angle to catch it.

Cushion Drill

The cushion drill begins with the defensive back facing a receiver with about ten yards between the two. The receiver takes off running, and the defensive back starts to backpedal, keeping the receiver in front. When the receiver gets within about three yards, the defensive back turns and runs forward in order to continue covering the receiver.

DB Zone Break

The DB zone break starts with the defensive back facing the quarterback from about 15 yards away in the middle of the field. Two stationary receivers stand between the quarterback and defensive back off to the side to form a diamond. The defensive back starts by backpedaling. The quarterback then turns one way, signaling to the defensive back that they are about to throw the ball. On this turn, the defensive back runs to cut off the receiver and catch the ball for an interception.

Line Drill

The line drill starts with a backpedal. On the coach’s signal, the player turns the lower half as if they are about to spin around and start sprinting, only to return to backpedaling. They do this a few times before actually turning all the way around and breaking into a run.

Short Box Drill

The short box drill requires cones set up in a three-yard-by-three-yard square. The player starts at the front-right cone and backpedals to the back-right cone. They then sprint to the front-left cone before backpedaling to the back-left cone. They finish by sprinting through the front-right cone.

Stay with the Receiver

In the stay with the receiver drill, a fourth cone is added to the turn and sprint drill at about a 45-degree angle from the third cone. The player backpedals to the second cone, turns and runs to the second one, then cuts to the fourth cone afterward. This can be done with or without a receiver, which can change up the route and pacing.

Stop the Run

The stop the run drill places a fifth cone farther down the field on that same 45-degree angle from the third cone. After the run to the fourth cone, the player must shift to another gear and sprint to the fifth cone.

Turn and Sprint

The turn and sprint drill uses three cones five yards apart from each other. The participant starts out in a backpedal from the first cone. When they get to the second cone, they turn and run to the third cone.

W Drill

In the W drill, the player makes their way through two rows of three cones, each of which is five yards apart from the other, making a rectangle. The player starts at the cone all the way to the right of the first row and backpedals to the cone directly behind them in the second row. From there, they sprint to the middle cone in the front row. They then backpedal straight back to the second row-middle cone and run forward once more to the first-row cone on the left.


What are the best defensive back drills?

The best defensive back drills are the Cushion Drill, the DB Zone Break Drill, the Stay with the Receiver Drill, and the Turn and Sprint Drill. These drills enhance and maximize a defensive back’s vital skills, which include staying with receivers while running both backwards and forwards, covering receivers, and predicting where and when the quarterback will throw the ball in order to secure interceptions.

How do I become a better defensive back in football?

The most important skills to work on to become a better defensive back are awareness, technique, alignment, and athleticism. Great defensive backs will always be aware of what the down and distance is and make a read on the play. Perfecting your technique can improve tackling and coverage. Knowing your alignment can set you up to make a big play. Any improvements in strength, quickness, and endurance will make you more effective on the field.