Tight End Drills: The Complete Guide

Using specific tight end drills is a great way to maximize your ability on the football field. Considering it requires a versatile set of skills to succeed, it only makes sense that you would need run blocking, pass blocking, and receiving tight end drills. 

While all offenses require something different out of the tight end, they all require some combination of blocking and receiving. While you might do more or less of one of these, you'll need to develop skills and techniques for each if you want to be a well-rounded tight end that your team can rely on in all situations. 

Run Blocking Drills

While physicality is important in the run game, technique is absolutely important. Tight ends are routinely going up against bigger, stronger defensive lineman, or smaller, faster linebackers and defensive backs. Without proper technique, tight ends can be at a physical disadvantage. 

Many offenses require blocking similar to that of an offensive lineman. The type of run blocking drills used will be based partly on scheme. There are different skills needed for man and zone blocking.

Within those basic blocking styles, there are other variations. Will you be blocking down on a defensive tackle or do you primarily work on linebackers? It is very different blocking on the first and second levels of the defense. 

The video below from USA Football includes has video of first step blocking drills from a Miami Dolphins Organized Team Activity. It demonstrates a simple technique for getting off the line quickly and get moving downfield into blocking position. You can see how precise and accurate  your footwork needs to be. 

The basic idea of this drill can be used in different ways. Depending on the specific scheme and play, the tight end can practice going in any direction with proper footwork. ​

The video below shows a 2014 Alabama football practice doing run blocking drills. You can see they work on the initial footwork and hand placement moving in each direction. The pad on the ground is used as feedback. A wide stance is needed. The pad of the defenders helps to focus on proper hand placement. 

Strength and athleticism are great, but without proper technique, tight ends will be at a disadvantage in the running game. That is why it is important to repeat drills that work on the initial steps, hand placement, and leverage needed to win against bigger or faster opponents. 

Pass Blocking Drills

Most tight ends would rather be out running routes and catching passes, but the truth is most offenses require at least part-time pass blocking from them. 

In the video below, Former NFL tight end Kory Sperry​ goes through the progressions of pass blocking. It starts with initial stance and hand placement and goes into how to move your body to stay between the defender and the quarterback. You have to be able to react to speed rush, power rush, and counter-movements. 

Footwork and posture need to be consistent for success in pass blocking. The video below demonstrates the setup for team drills. This is a good setup for larger groups of athletes. The drill focuses on stance, quick feet, kick-slides, and proper posture. 

Depending on the offense, tight ends may do very little pass blocking. It is still an important skill to have to make a well-rounded skill set so the athlete can be used in all game situations. 

Receiving Drills

These are usually the favorite drills for tight ends to do. A lot of these drills are similar to or the same as receiver drills. 

Tight end receiving drills should be very individualized based on scheme. Tight ends are often used in more ways than most other offensive positions. They may be used in the traditional way, "attached" to the offensive line. Other offenses that use the tight end as a receiver may split them out wide, or use them in the slot. ​

If you are used away from the formation, either split wide or in the slot, you will need to do more receiver type drills. Some of those same skills are needed if you are used in-line​. Getting off of press coverage is crucial for getting in to your route. You need to be able to get off the line quickly, so you don't disrupt timing with the quarterback. 

The video below by USA Football demonstrates the press coverage towel drill. It demonstrates how to dip and rip around aggressive press coverage. ​

Once you are off the line, you still need to be able to run effective routes. You can absolutely use route-running practice as a way to practice specific routes, and it is definitely recommended. 

You can also do general footwork and change of direction drills to help all of your routes. Being able to cut and change direction quickly, without giving away the route, is crucial to effective route-running. 

This drill series video below demonstrates how to make quick cuts with proper technique. This allows you to maximize speed and limit deceleration when changing direction. Whether you are a fast tight end or not, you want to be able to get the most out of your speed. It's important not to waste any motion or energy. 

After a good route, you need to finish it off with a good catch. This is where catching ability and hand-eye coordination come into play. The video below demonstrates proper technique for making receptions. You have to cleanly catch the ball and tuck it away before you get moving downfield. You'll want to practice catching from a variety of angles. The video also shows difficult to make sideline catches, proper diamond catching technique, and how to use small items like tennis balls for practicing hand-eye coordination. 

The Best Tight End Drills

The best tight end drills are based on what the athlete's strengths and weaknesses are and what he is needed to do in the offense. A receiving tight end may not need to do many run and pass blocking drills. A tight end who is a run-heavy, ball-control offense, though, will definitely need to work on run blocking. 

In addition, there are general football drills that are applicable to all tight ends. These include speed, power, and agility drills. These are general drills that help make the tight end a better athlete and can have a major impact in all facets of the game. 

Whenever considering adding a drill to your program, ask yourself if the drills checks these three boxes. 

  • Specific - The drills need to be specific to the skills you will use on gameday. If you are primarily a pass-catcher, you should do pass-catching drills. If you primarily are a run blocker, focus mostly on those skills. 
  • Effective - It should go without saying, but they need to be able to help develop a specific skill. You shouldn't drill just to drill, you want to get better at something.
  • Complete - This doesn't refer to a specific drill, but all of your tight end drills in general. They need to cover all aspects of the tight end's role. 

It's important to remember that all offenses require a mixture of these skills, so the athlete should work on some mixture of all three. Priority should obviously be given to whatever skill is required the most. ​

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