Three-step drop action is a bit different from the five- and seven-step drops, because the three-step drop does not allow for much depth by design. As a result, a slight modification is made in the second – or crossover – step to produce as much depth as possible.

On a three-step drop, the quarterback takes his normal first step – the close to 180-degree turn step – in his effort to get away from the line of scrimmage. The quarterback also could utilize an initial cheat step with his left, staggered foot. On the second step, however, the quarterback utilizes an elongated skip- type step in an effort to add even just a few extra inches before taking his plant step.

On average, the skip-type step helps to produce six to eight extra inches of depth. Any extra depth, even if it is only inches, can be important because the quarterback is setting up much closer to the line of scrimmage and the offensive line. Since the quarterback must still throw over the top of the blockers and rushers, that little extra depth helps alleviate the angles the throws must take.

Two-step drop

The two-step drop is a specialized dropback action used to throw a fade route when inside the 5-yard line. Being so close to the goal line, the quarterback doesn’t have time to take a normal three-step drop.

In essence, the quarterback takes one drop step with the right foot. This step must angle the quarterback’s hips to the right or left, depending on the direction of the throw. When throwing to the left, the drop plant step is backward and slightly to the left. The second step is merely a slide step of the left foot to help the quarterback balance his body in his prepass stance so that he can deliver the quick fade pass.

Cheated stepping for sideline throws

For highly timed passes thrown to the left, the quarterback utilizes cheat steps on the last two steps to enable the hips and body to be set to the left and therefore ready to make an immediate sideline throw. A major throwing problem can occur when right-handed quarterbacks set up as if throwing straight downfield when they are actually going to make a sideline throw to the left.

With the hips and body set for a straight-ahead, downfield throw, the quarterback is forced to swing the left foot, hips and trunk to the left to make the left sideline throw. As a result, the natural body torque and the swing of the body to the left can pull the thrown football down and away to the left. To accurately deliver the pass when using these incorrect mechanics, the quarterback must add extra arm power to the delivery to get the football to go where he wants it to go.

To rectify this problem, the quarterback can utilize a cheated crossover throttle and plant steps to set up with his body actually facing toward the left sideline target point. Such a cheated setup allows the quarterback to properly step toward the pass target without having to swing his body.

To turn the stance properly to the left, the quarterback does not fully cross over the throttle step backward. Instead, he steps slightly forward toward the right sideline on the crossover throttle step. On the plant step, the quarterback swings his right foot around to the right to turn his hips and body to the left as he sets.

The action is the same whether the quarterback is using a three-, five- or seven-step drop since the entire cheated setup stepping action takes place on the last two steps.

Steve Axman is a former football coach who retired at the end of the 2014 season after a 44-year career in coaching. His coaching resume includes stints at East Stroudsburg State, Stanford, UCLA, Northern Arizona, Washington, Maryland, Arizona, Army, Albany State, Illinois, Minnesota, Idaho and the Denver Gold of the USFL. 

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Dan Guttenplan