Essential Pass Rush Drills for Defensive Linemen

In this article I will be giving you a few of the pass rush drills that I use with my defensive linemen. In my opinion pass rush is the fun part of being a defensive linemen when doing drills during your individual work time. It is the time where players get to let loose and go upfield, trying to get a sack, hit, or hurry the quarterback and get the crowd and their teammates pumped.

For me, it is hard to coach because there are so many moves and strategies that go into pass rushing. What I try to do is keep things simple, give my defensive linemen a few moves to choose from, and make sure they stay in their rushing lanes. 

I will show you three drills that I use to help prepare my players to react to a pass block. The first will be a hand combat drill that you can eventually use for pre-practice, a pass rush lane responsibility drill, and what I call the chop rip pass rush move. 

Hand Combat Drill

I use the hand combat drill beginning in my pre-spring practice morning sessions as well as summer sessions. This drill is meant to train my defensive line’s hand eye coordination as a reaction to an offensive lineman trying to put their hands on them during a pass rush. The set up for this drill is simple. You will need your defensive linemen to pair up with each other. One lineman will act as an offensive lineman while the other will be the defensive lineman.

Drill Progression

  1. On the coach’s command, the offensive line scout will begin shooting one or both hands at the defensive lineman, trying to get their hands on them and grabbing their jersey. 
  2. The defensive lineman will react by swatting the offensive lineman’s hands off of him. They can club their hands down, up, or to either side. 
  3. Once the offensive lineman’s hands have been hit, they need to attempt to replace their hands, making the defensive lineman have to get their hands off. 

Coaching Points

  1. Physical hands when getting the offensive lineman’s hands off of them.
  2. Don’t guess when the offensive lineman is going to shoot their hands. See it and react. 
  3. Offensive line scouts will need to change up the timing of their hands to make sure that the defensive lineman is reacting correctly and not just guessing.

Pass Rush Lane Responsibility Drill

This is a great drill to get your defensive linemen to understand that they have to stay in their assigned pass rushing lanes in order to make sure that they cover the quarterback properly and don’t give an easy rushing lane up. 

To set up this drill, you will need some cones, trash cans, bags, or even bodies to represent 5 offensive linemen and show the different gaps that the defensive linemen are responsible to cover. I use a simulated ball snap with each of my drills so instead of the center I like to have someone with a ball on a stick, snapping a football or moving their foot to start the drill. I will also have a bag or someone standing where the quarterback would be in order for the defensive linemen to fit up on the quarterback correctly. 

Drill Progression

  1. On the snap or simulated snap of the football, the defensive linemen will fire out of their stances, rushing in their correct rushing lanes. 
  2. After rushing their correct lanes, they will fit up on the quarterback, bag, or trash can representing the quarterback. 
  3. As a switch up you can have a person back where the quarterback should be. As soon as the defensive linemen get close, have the quarterback try to make a move on them and break their contain. This will force the defensive linemen to be focused and be ready to move in order to keep the quarterback contained. 

Coaching Points

  1. Fast get off once the ball is snapped.
  2. Stay in your rushing lane. 
  3. Break down on the quarterback. 

Pass Rush Move: The Chop Rip

This is one of the first pass rush moves I teach to my defensive linemen. This is a great drill to work after you have introduced the hand combat drill to them. The way I teach this pass rush move and all of my other moves is to begin the drill close up, performing the drill, and then work back to a three point stance where we read pass, gain ground, and perform the move. 

The chop rip is where you chop the hands of the offensive lineman blocking you, turn your hips toward the quarterback, and rip through. This is a great beginner move to practice. It is low risk and even if the chop does not work, the rip move follow through can help get the offensive lineman off of you. 

To perform a chop, the defensive lineman will need to wait until the offensive lineman has shot his hands at the defensive lineman. Once his hands are coming at the defensive lineman he will chop up, down, or to a side and will rip his arm nearest to the lineman through to make sure he has broken off contact. The rip move is very similar to an uppercut but with an open hand (the picture below will show it.  

Chop Rip Drill Progression Part 1: Close contact

To set up this drill you will need to pair up all defensive linemen. One will act as an offensive lineman and they will switch after each one gets a defensive rep. The defensive lineman will shade to one side of the scout offensive lineman to simulate the side they have chosen to rush. 

Drill progression

  1. On the coach’s command, the offensive player will shoot his hands at the defensive lineman as if they are pass blocking him. 
  2. The defensive lineman will chop the hands of the offensive lineman off while flipping their hips to where the quarterback should be. 
  3. He will rip through and step behind the offensive lineman. 

Coaching Points

  1. Physical hands
  2. Fast hip turn
  3. Big rip move

Chop Rip Drill Part 2: From a 3-point Stance

This drill will be very similar to the chop rip from close up except that the defensive lineman will be in a 3-point stance and the drill will start with the snap of the football. You can go with a few groups at a time as long as the defensive lineman can see the ball. It may be good to have a bag or someone stand at quarterback depth behind the scout offensive linemen for the defensive linemen to finish the drill on. 

Drill Progression

  1. At the snap of the ball, the offensive lineman will pass set while the defensive lineman fires out of his stance. 
  2. Once the defensive lineman closes the distance between himself and the scout offensive lineman, he will chop the offensive hands out of the way and will rip past him.
  3. The defensive lineman will break down at the quarterback or bag representing him. 

Coaching points

  1. Great ball get off.
  2. Physical chop and overemphasized rip. 
  3. Good finish on the quarterback. 


These are just a few basic drills that I work with my defensive linemen in order to prepare them for pass rush situations.

The best way, once again to work pass rush in my opinion, is to bring them up close, work the move, master the move, then put it all together.

This article was originally published in Headsets: Volume 2, Issue 1.


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