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Calibrating the precision-timed passing attack: the QB's dropback has to be timed out with the receiver's break.

One of the most basic teaching principles in the passing attack is the creation of a rhythm between the QB's drop and the receiver's break.

The QB should be able to unload the football just as the receiver is breaking open. This will help the linemen execute their blocks and put the ball into the receiver's hands the instant he separates from the defensive back.

Note: The receiver must be taught to run precise routes. Due to the different depths of the routes, the QB's drops have to be calibrated to the timing and progression of the patterns.

The basic elements in the teaching progression include the stance, separation step, drop back, front-shoulder drop, plant step, target step, and follow through.


The QB should line up behind center with his feet inside the snapper's heels with his toes pointed straight ahead and his weight over the balls of his feet just enough to give him a comfortable, balanced feeling.

The legs should be flexed comfortably with the shoulders square to the LOS. The QB should remain as tall as the center will permit, keeping his back straight and his head up checking the defenders. His hands should be under the center's crotch, "knuckle deep," spread apart to an angle of ninety degrees - letting the snapper know exactly where to place the ball.

Once the QB is set behind the center, he must scan the defensive front, checking on the alignment of the backers and getting a read on the secondary coverage. This will give him an idea of what the defense might be trying to do. He can then make any necessary adjustments.

At the snap, he should have his head up and looking down field.


In separating from the center at the snap, the QB should ride the center forward with his hands and arms only. As the exchange is effected, he should take a short (six inches maximum) backward step with his left (separation) foot (assuming he is a right-handed passer). This separation step should be taken very quickly.

The separation step will help the passer disengage from the center and obtain the proper depth in his drop, while keeping his shoulders square to the LOS during the initial phase of the dropback. It will also prevent the QB from false-stepping into the center during the exchange.


The first full step away from center should be a long stride with the right foot. This should be followed up with progressively shorter steps. As a general rule, the first two-thirds of the drop should be made up of fairly long strides, and the last third of the drop being composed of shorter, control-type steps.

As the QB drops back, he should keep the ball chest high with the points of the ball vertical and the elbows in and close to the body but not touching. The ball should be carried smoothly with very little motion away from the center of his body, and the chin kept close to the forward (left) shoulder in order to read the back-side.

A 3-step drop will take the QB about 4 to 4 1/2 yards from the LOS, a 5-step drop will take him from 7 to 7 1/2 yards back, and a 7-step drop will take him about 9 yards back.

By the time the QB hits the last step in his drop, he should know where he is going to throw the football. We expect him to do this quickly and decisively with very little, if any, hesitation.

It is important to remember that adjustments may be needed to maximize the QB's and receiver's efficiency. For example, in one offense, the QB may use a "7 big with a gather step" on an 18-yard comeback route by the wide receiver.

If the QB is habitually late in his delivery, it may become necessary to change his drop to a "7 quick with a gather step" in order to time out the pattern.

As the QB comes to the end of his drop, he must execute the most critical elements of the pass: the front shoulder drop, the back plant step, the gather step, the target step, and the concluding follow through.


The QB must now take shorter steps and gather himself. We want him to drop his front shoulder slightly to stabilize himself and then take a little bounce forward, as he transfers his weight from back to front.

If the QB throws off his back foot, the ball will sail over the receiver's head. If he locks his knees (straightens up) before he throws, he'll usually throw the ball into the ground.

The QB who does not drop his shoulder will find his momentum taking him backwards and he will tend to throw off his back foot, making the ball hang and sail over the receiver's head.


One of the most critical components of the drop is the establishment of a solid and comfortable plant foot and the resetting ("gather") of the foot into the best throwing position.

The back foot must always be planted perpendicular to the target, putting the QB in the best position to make the throw. QB's often have difficulty throwing to their back side because they have placed their back foot perpendicular to the middle of the field rather than to their back-side target - forcing them to throw across their body.


With his body fairly erect, a slight bend in his knees, and his feet about 12 inches apart, the QB is now in the best position to throw the football quickly with velocity and accuracy, much like a pitcher from the stretch position.

It is important to point the inside portion of the lead foot toward the receiver or where the receiver will be when he catches the pass. The QB does not have to take an extremely long stride, as this might cause him to lock out his knee and throw the ball short into the ground. (If done over a period of time, this may cause pain and create arm trouble.)

As the QB lands on his stride foot (heel to toe), the knee should be slightly flexed with the foot pointed toward where the receiver and the football will meet. If he lands toe first, the knee will lock out and the QB could wind up throwing the ball into the ground.

Any time the QB has to move up into the pocket to find an outlet receiver, he should shuffle-step forward, keeping his feet no more than 18 inches apart. When shuffling up in the pocket, he should always bring the back foot forward first, preventing him from over-striding.


In his ready position, the QB will have his body under control, his feet about shoulder-width apart under his hips, the knees slightly flexed, and the ball held in both hands at chest level.

As the lead foot is brought forward, the support hand is released from the ball and the ball is brought back, with the elbow cocked, to a point back of the helmet.

The release is effected with a smooth, synchronized action of the trunk, hips, and arm. Note: The index finger is the dominant digit. It leaves the ball last as the arm follows through toward the center of the body and winds up with the palm facing the ground and the fingers pointing toward where the target and the ball will meet.

Quarterbacks who throw the ball a lot will get a callus on the inside edge of the tip of the index finger. It is produced by the friction of the ball against the last point of contact.


While the follow-through is an essential part of the throwing action, its function has often been misinterpreted. Scientific fact: Once the ball leaves the hand, there is nothing more the thrower can do for the throw - the ball is gone.

What the follow through does do is give the thrower and his coach a good idea of what was done right and wrong. The coach can check all the key areas: hand, wrist, arm, head, shoulders, hips, knees, feet, etc., to make sure everything is where it ought to be.

As a rule, the passing hand should flow toward the center of the body and wind up with the palm facing the ground and the fingers pointing toward where the target and the football will meet.

When all the mechanics are executed correctly, the ball will be delivered with a tight spiral and achieve distance and accuracy without wasted motion.

A few definitions with respect to the foot action:

"Gather" Step - when the QB resets his back foot to throw. He always gathers with the back foot to prevent overstriding.

"Shuffle" Step - when the QB resets his back foot and then shuffles forward in six-inch increments to allow the routes to develop.

"Roll" Step - when the QB steps to the target side with his plant foot, then steps toward the target with this lead step.


Let's check out the diagrams to determine the type and depth of the drops required for the specific plays and distance. Note: The depth of the QB drops should be measured from the LOS, not from where the QB starts his drop action (about a yard from the LOS).


Used on 6-yard quick slants and 6-yard quick stops by the wide receiver:

The QB drops back about 4 1/2 yards from the LOS.


Used on 6-yard quick speed outs by the wide receiver:

The QB drops about yards from the LOS, allowing the QB to cheat on quick throws to the wide receiver. Once the QB gets a pre-snap read, he should pick a side and stay with it, going from his primary receiver to his throw-away.


Used on 12-yard quick seam posts by the wide receiver:

The QB drops about 6 yards from the LOS, avoiding any kind of gather step.


Used on 12-yard speed outs by the wide receiver:

The QB drops about 5 1/2 to 6 yards from the LOS, allowing him to cheat in order to hit the wide receiver quickly. Once the QB gets a pre-snap read, he should pick a side and stay with it, going through his progressions and avoiding any kind of gather step.


Used on 12- and 14-yard curls by the wide receiver:

The QB drops about 7 to 7 1/2 yards from the LOS, always gathering with the back foot to help prevent over-striding.


Used on 18-yard comeback routes and deep post-corner routes by wide receivers:

The QB drops 9 yards from the LOS, always gathering with the back foot to help prevent over-striding.


Used on 16-yard square-ins by wide receiver:

The QB drops about 8 yards from the LOS, always gathering with the back foot to help prevent over-striding.
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Title Annotation:football
Author:Jenkins, Ron
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Date:Aug 1, 1997
Previous Article:Getting a handle on the hitters.
Next Article:Your coaching philosophy.

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