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mequitehsBy Mike Kuchar, Senior Research Manager, X&O Labs


Now that the majority of the country is engaged in post-season play, we wanted to provide what we felt were essential non-contact tackle progressions to get your programs ready for post-season play. At this point of the season players are nicked up and pushing them too far physically by forcing contact could have some dreadful consequences down the road. We all know that it’s the fundamentals that win games in November and December and finding the 5-10 minutes per practice to apply this drill work now can pay off by seasons end. We segment our research into 10 drills that fall into the following progressions: footwork tackle progressions, shield tackle progressions and angle tackle progressions.

By Mike Kuchar
Senior Research Manager
X&O Labs
Twitter: @MikekKuchar


Insiders Members: Login here to access the full-length version of this research report.



mequitehsUsing circuit-tackling progressions provides for higher player involvement and less contact time. These drills not only teach the fundamentals of contact points but also stress the footwork necessary to get players into the position to make contact, which can be one of the more underrated coaching techniques associated with tackling. In this report, we segmented our research into the following categories:

  • Footwork Tackle Progressions: These drills emphasize the pre-contact footwork necessary to put defenders in position to make tackles.
  • Shield Tackle Progressions: These drills replace bodies with shields in an emphasis to teach the proper contact points without taking any one to the Ground.
  • Angle Tackle Progressions: These drills teach defenders the proper angles to make contact on ball carriers.

Footwork Tackle Drill Progressions

Pistol Drill Progression: John Anderson, Zagreb Raiders (Croatia)

When introduced the pistol drill: The drill combines the following

  • Stance
  • Movement of the feet
  • Hitting the target
  • Breaking down
  • Shuffling the feet
  • Firing up through the target
  • Look Up to the Stars
  • Driving a minimum of three steps or 5 yards
  • Front Size Hit
  • Left Size Hit
  • Right Size Hit

We use the “pistol” drill in order to stop arm tackling and to gain leverage on the runners. The pistol drill starts with the player mimicking reaching for two guns and drawing them. To help players visualize the situation I remind them of John Wayne pulling out is guns. Next, the player chops his feet quickly. On the go command he pushes both arms high in the air into as if he was doing a weight lifting curl and looks up and then drives three to five yards. The drill helps with player safety and protect against head injuries.

The Pistol Drill With a Player

Our next drill is to add a player to the equation. One player does the pistol and the other is the mock ball carrier. We prefer to line players up equally by height and weight. The mock player stands with his arms extended facing the tackler. On the ready command the tackler begins to chop his feet. On the pistol command he gets in the tackling position and on the goal he steps across putting both arms underneath the mock ball carrier and lifts him in the air and carriers him 3 to 5 yards.

To see film of this drill, click on the video below:

The Next Part of the Pistol Drill is having the player stand with his left or right side to the tackler. This teaches the player to get his head in front of the player. This way if the runner turns away the tackler is still able to make the tackle. We practice this drill on the left and right side to help our players get an understanding of making tackles on each side of the ball carrier. Also, we use the drill to teach sideline tackling.

To see film of this drill, click on the video below:

Pistol Drill for DB’s

For our DB’s we emphasize leverage and we incorporate a technique we call Hit, Wrap and Roll.

  • Breaking Down
  • Shuffle the Feet towards
  • Gaining leverage on the runner by going below the waist
  • Lower hit Position
  • Shooting or Ripping through the tackle
  • Wrap up the legs
  • Roll over and come to the feet

We teach the same technique with our DBs but we have them start on their knees. For DBs the important part we want is to tackle any part of the ball carriers below the waist. This techniques force the player to get lower than runners. Even if he doesn’t make solid contact, if he’s able to grab a leg or a foot, it can cause the runner to slow until the backside pursuit arrives.

To see film of this drill, click on the video below:

Wrap and Roll Tackle: Guy Bertola, Dwight Morrow High School (NJ) 


One player stands on the opposite side of the tackler holding the step over bag vertically with the numbers on the bottom. Simply place your hand on top of the bag. The tackler will use the numbers as an aiming point and will proceed to tackle around the numbers and roll his body toward the L.O.S.

Coaching points: The numbers represent the ball carriers knees. We want squeeze the knees and roll toward the line of scrimmage.

To see film of this drill, click on the video below:

What You’re Missing…

Join X&O Labs’ exclusive membership website, Insiders, and get instant access to the full-length version of this report. Here’s just a quick sample of what you’ll discover in the full-length version…

  • The form tackle progression used at Mesquite High School (TX), which emphasizes the “come to balance” footwork necessary for pre-contact.
  • The angle tackle progression used at Mesquite High School (TX), which teaches the defender to track the near hip of ball carriers on inside out and outside in tackle situations.
  • The shield tackle progression used at Dwight Morrow High School (NJ), which emphasizes the proper tackling technique without sacrificing contact.
  • Plus video of all these drill progressions.

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Because all of these drills do not require contact, we found that applying these drills are useful not only in the off-season, but can easily be implemented in-season to detract from player injuries and provide for mass group teaching periods.



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