Defensive players must learn proper pursuit angles to be effective. A good defense has 11 defenders swarming to the football on every play. By running perfect angles to the ball carrier, a defense can frustrate and dominate the offense.
Getting more players to the point of attack quicker helps hide other weaknesses in your defense. Slower, physically weaker athletes will find some strength in numbers!
The pursuit drill is necessary for any good defense. It is also extremely useful in planning out your defensive practice schedule. Make the pursuit drill a part of the team’s daily practice plan.
A pursuit drill is an excellent warm-up, beginning at a 3/4 speed run and working up to full speed pursuit. Pursuit drills can also be a part of Team Conditioning. Traditional sideline pursuit drills can even benefit the offense, allowing Quarterbacks to work exchanges, option pitch or toss, and flare passes to Running Backs.
Try to involve your entire defense in the pursuit and don’t let anyone stand around! The first, second, and third (if available) teams should be running pursuit drills. Any extra players should be used as ball carriers, or “rabbits.”
If you have an excess of linemen, use them as offensive linemen to help the alignment of the front defenders. Instruct these extra linemen to perform a 10 yard shuttle, down and back to their position between snaps to make sure everyone gets work.
Make sure your players run every rep all out. Taking great angles to the ball is extremely important, so don’t let players loaf! We want players to have a passion for chasing down the football, and we need them to take perfect angles. Build good habits in practice for great performances on the field!
Design pursuit drills to fit that week’s game plan needs. Use a screen pursuit drill to prepare for heavy screen teams. Use other forms of pursuit to handle scrambling QBs or to teach run fits.
Take a look at the Sideline Pursuit Drill below that was published in Installing Football’s 4-3 Over Defensive Front.