The Zone Break Drill for Defensive Backs

Young defensive backs have a lot to learn about covering their complicated position the right way—especially when they are introduced to zone defense.

This drill, courtesy of the Youth Football Coaches Association, teaches defensive backs the proper fundamentals for reading the quarterback, anticipating the ball, and gaining confidence while covering two receivers in the same zone.

To get a printable .pdf of this practice drill, visit the Youth Football Coaches Association website.

The Drill

A diagram of the drill
  • A stationary wide receiver lines up on each hash mark, and a defensive back splits the difference.
  • The quarterback (coach) aligns 15 yards directly in front of the defensive back.
  • On ball movement, the quarterback takes a three to five step drop. At the same time, the defensive back pedals straight back.
  • As the QB sets, he turns his eyes and shoulders towards a wide receiver.
  • The defensive back reads the quarterback's eyes and shoulders.
  • As the quarterback releases the ball, the defensive back plants, drives, intercepts the ball, tucks it away, and sprints past the quarterback

Coaching Points

  • Emphasize correct stance and proper backpedaling technique while the defensive back reads the quarterback.
  • On his break, the defensive back's eyes are on the wide receiver. After acceleration, his eyes are on the ball.
  • Coach the defensive back to gain ground as quickly as possible, and to avoid false steps.
  • The defensive back catches the ball at its highest point, with both hands,and looks the ball all the way in.
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The founder of Youth Football Coaches Association and current director is Joe Bouffard. Bouffard, affectionately known as Coach Bouf, is a veteran of 16 years of coaching experience at various levels that include youth, high school and college. While at New Canaan High School in Connecticut, Coach Bouf employed a passing attack offense that has led to 2007 and 2008 Class MM State Championships. Currently, Coach Bouf serves as offensive coordinator at Fairfield Warde High School in Connecticut.

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