Teach Proper Dig Breaks

By Keith Grabowski

Having a weekly work flow and knowing what drills you work and when are important to skill development. When players understand the errors that the drills are designed to fix and the proper body mechanics we want to see, then it becomes important to them.

As with anything we do during practice, we emphasize that they are not going through the motions. They are focused on a specific movement to create muscle memory.

We adapted the Air Raid settle and noose drill to accommodate both quarterback pocket movements skills and teaching the proper dig break. The dig is an effective route when executed correctly. It brings the receiver into a window that the linebacker or safety cannot defend. However, just a slight error in how the receiver breaks can change the window and allow defenders to react to break up the pass or, worse, intercept the ball.

The dig break drill is one that we start practice with one day per week to emphasize many of the same skills as the settle and noose. However, instead of working back and forth between the cans, we work upfield and break perpendicular to a line to the point of exaggeration in getting the hip open on the break. The quarterbacks simultaneously are working a route progression that has them scanning across and moving right or left in the pocket before throwing the ball.

The first error we want to eliminate for the receiver is stepping outside of the frame of the body to make the break. The receiver is slower out of the break, which affects the window the quarterback wants to throw into.

The other most common error occurs when the receiver breaks around his inside leg because he does not get his hip open.

When done correctly, the difference is enough to be able to get into the window and have the room to make the catch as seen below.

The mastery of a skill taught and trained drill is evident when the players can see it on film.

Keith Grabowski was a football coach for 26 years, most recently serving as an offensive assistant and technology coordinator at Oberlin College in Ohio. He previously was a head coach at the high school level for eight years and the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Baldwin Wallace University. Now the director of football operations at USA Football.