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Pocket Presence – Quarterback Pocket Drills

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Pocket Presence – Quarterback Pocket Drills

By: Doug Heslip

quarterback pocket drills football field

In my last piece I wrote about Escape Routes. Being able to avoid pressure, making something happen when plays break down can lead to huge plays. Escaping puts pressure on the defense to stop a quarterback that is comfortable at being under duress and on the run.

So what is Pocket Presence? Pocket Presence is the uncanny knack of foreseeing trouble. The good ones have this. The ability to detect blindside hostiles and then disappear like a ghost can be a back breaker for defensive units.

Great quarterbacks are frustrating to play against, but when you finally get him, you remember that sack. Pictures, posters and video will be saved to relive that moment years later.

When I think of quarterbacks that have pocket presence two immediately come to mind: Tom Brady and Joe Montana. I’ll watch Patriot games just to watch Brady drop back to pass.

Brady glides, slides, and computes like he has an hour to throw the ball. Brady knows that all defenders want to get to him and crush him so they can say they sacked a legend. Week after week speed freaks come for him. Week after week he wins the battle. The only reason I watch a Patriot’s game is to witness Brady’s superhuman skill of pocket presence.

In the interest of keeping your quarterback confident during chaos I have listed some quarterback pocket drills to enhance pocket presence.




One of the time tested quarterback pocket drills. I like this drill because your quarterback has to go forward, backwards and hitch up at an angle to the left and right sides.

Have your quarterback start by dropping back in a 5-step drop. A 5-step drop is characterized as 3 big steps and 2 little steps (I will write on 3, 5 and 7-step drops soon).

You as the coach will be directly in front of your quarterback. As the 5-step drop is being executed, coach can point in a forward, drop back, 45 degree or slide motion.

Have your QB complete a variety of the movements listed above in one set. At the end of the desired movement, such as dropping back motion, have them end the drill with an escape route.




Have your QB drop back in a 5-step drop. At the end of the drop have a defensive player crash in on him on his backside. The QB will make a front door escape.

As he is going parallel to the line of scrimmage, he realizes that there is nowhere to go as he nears the sideline and defenders are closing in. At this point he performs a backdoor escape and heads back to where he was coming from.

As he is escaping pressure he has to keep his eyes downfield looking for a wide receiver. He has to decide if he will become a runner or passer soon. If the decision is made to throw, I want him to take his left shoulder (right handed QB) and point it at his intended target. This will help with shoulder rotation and delivering an accurate pass with some zip on the football.





I like this drill because the quarterback has to move in minimal space to make a play.

In this drill, the pocket has collapsed all around the quarterback. At the end of his 5-step drop, I have my quarterback turn his throwing shoulder inward or dip it to avoid the outreached hand of a defender. Once he has made the defender miss, he hitches up and makes the throw. Make sure he has two hands on the ball, is compact and throws the ball accurately.


You can add variations to this quarterback pocket drill. I like to consistently keep the inward movement of the throwing shoulder, but beyond that, an additional component I like to add is an up and out escape route.




These are excellent quarterback pocket drills to simulate a quarterback going through his progressions as he is dropping back to pass.

Have your quarterback go through all his drops 3, 5 and 7 steps. Have 3 to 4 wide receivers downfield at various depths. I’ve practiced this with as many as 6 receivers downfield. Your wide receivers will be standing still with their hands on their knees.

As the quarterback drops back, scanning the field, coach will point to a wide receiver downfield. The wide receiver he points to will take their hands off their knees and raise their hands to chest level with arms extended.

The quarterback will throw to the wide receiver that raises his hands. Coach will be behind the quarterback when he points to a wide receiver. This way the quarterback does not know which wide receiver coach pointed to.


4 Bag Drill

Lay 4 dummies on the ground. Have your quarterback start in front of the first bag near the middle in a good throwing platform. The QB should have both hands on the ball holding it between his pectoral muscles. His eyes are looking downfield. He can move the football from pec to pec as he goes over the bags.


On coach’s cue, have him start with his back leg and step over the bags. He is to continue stepping over bags alternating legs as he travels over the bags (one-ins).

Take two wide receivers. Place one receiver at one end of the bags facing the quarterback and the other near the middle of the bags. The wide receivers can be various short distances downfield with their hands on their knees.

Coach will again be located behind the quarterback and point to one of the wide receivers. This receiver will then raise his hands from his knees to chest level to catch the ball.

The quarterback will throw to the wide receiver that raised his hands. Your quarterback is throwing on the run while going over bags.


As a progression have a defender split the quarterback and wide receiver. As the quarterback is going over the bags the defender will either cover the wide receiver or attack the quarterback. The quarterback, with his eyes downfield, will throw to the wide receiver if the defender chargers him or run with the ball if the defender covers the wide receiver.


This quarterback pocket drill involves a lot of coordination. It’s demanding in the sense that the bags act as bodies they have to navigate over. Not only do they have to get over the “bodies” they have to look downfield for the open wide receiver.

At first I will let them look down at the bags to get a feel for going over them. I think this helps. Make it clear to them that this will end once they feel confident going over the bags.







About the Author:

Coach Doug Heslip is a sports performance and football coach in Negaunee, Michigan and trainer at Heslip Elite Sports Performance Training. He has been coaching football and training athletes for 20 years. Coach Heslip is an instructor at the USA Football/Green Bay Packer coaching clinics at Lambeau Field and has been for nearly 10 years, rated the number 1 station as polled by coaches after instruction. He is also a Team USA football coach. Coach Heslip has written several articles published through American Football Monthly and has a Running Back DVD through American Football Monthly, peer reviewed and labeled outstanding. He also received the Governor’s Service Award for the State of Michigan for coaching football.

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