The 11 Most Effective Open Field Tackle Drills

Jul 1, 2018 | Tackling, Defense, Fundamentals

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



wiscWhile coaches have different perspectives on the correct techniques in open field tackling, we found one constant goal: do what you have to do to get the ball carrier on the ground. Usually, this comes in the form of closing space between the defender and the ball carrier, coming to balance before contact and understanding your leverage on the field as it pertains to other defenders and the sideline. We found the following common errors as it pertains to open field tackling:

  • Coming to balance to early on ball carrier: It seems that more coaches are using the term “come to balance” rather than the archaic “break down.” So many tackles are missed because defenders are not coming in with their eyes at ball level.
  • Losing leverage as a force defender: Whether it’s a squat corner, alley safety or apexed linebacker, these players are responsible for turning the ball into their help. In order to do this, they must be able to stay in a leveraged position to get the ball back to their help.
  • Overrunning the ball carrier when playing cutback: Another way in which defenders are missing tackles is by overrunning the ball carrier in the open field, providing him with cutback lanes that can gash the defense.

We presented the best way to fix these issues by producing what we felt were the eleven most effective open field tackling progressions complete with coaching points and video. We classified them into which of these problem areas they alleviate.

Editor’s Note: The following drills are cataloged in our drill film library. Insiders members can gain access to our entire drill and game film library, which contain more drills done by these programs.

Issue 1: Coming to Balance too Early on Ball Carrier

Regardless of whether you’re teaching the breakdown or shimmy before contact, a decision has to be made on when you start this technique. If you start this technique too early, you can give the ball carrier too much room to make a move and get by you. If you start this technique too early, the higher the chances are of not bringing your hips through contact, resulting in an arm tackle. These are the best drills we’ve found to reinforce this fundamental.