Linebackers are known for being among the toughest and most relentless players on the field. Legendary linebackers such as Dick Butkus, Bill Romanowski, and Lawrence Taylor were known as being vicious enforcers who aimed to punish whoever held the ball. The middle linebacker, however, serves a special role on the defense. This player must not only be extremely strong and agile, but capable of reading defenses and communicating these reads to fellow defenders. Middle linebacker drills must emphasize speed and agility, as well as reading and reacting to difference offensive schemes.
This classic linebacker drill emphasizes speed, acceleration, and the ability to shift laterally from one side of the field to another. Begin this drill by placing a series of cones in the shape of a "T." Cones should be spaced about 5 yards apart. Start the drill at the base of the "T," and sprint to the middle. Shift laterally -- either to the left or right -- and touch the cone. Then shift laterally as quickly as possible to the far cone and touch it. Shift laterally back to the center cone, and then drop back to the start as if retreating into pass coverage.
Focus on making sharp cuts, keeping the head and eyes up and staying low throughout the drill. You can enhance this drill by having a quarterback pretend to make passes, and shifting laterally to match the intended direction of the pass. Increase the intensity of this drill by timing it and competing with fellow players.
Open Field Tackling
The middle linebacker must be able to make tackles in the open field, without the assistance of either the defensive backs or safeties. Work on your ability to make an open field tackle with a partner. Have your partner stand about 2 to 3 yards away, facing you. Your partner is the ball carrier. Have your partner try to elude you in any way possible, while you attempt to move with him as much as possible. Keep your knees and hips low as you move. Next, have your partner run straight at you at full speed. Your job is simply to react to whatever the ball carrier does, and bring him to the ground. Finally, switch so that you are the ball carrier and your partner is the linebacker. This will help you gain an understanding of what the ball carrier is thinking, increasing your ability to read and react to different attempts to juke.
Diamond Break Drill
The angle intercept drill is effective for improving field awareness and defending the pass. Set up this drill by placing one cone 20 yards away, and two cones 12 yards away and 8 yards on either side of the far cone. Position yourself 4 yards in front of the coach or quarterback in a ready stance. Have the coach or quarterback aim toward one of the side cones, and then open up and sprint to that cone. When you reach that cone, wait for the coach to aim toward the deep cone, and then shift back to the deep cone. At this point, have the coach throw a pass to either of the two side cones. Your job is to react to the pass and intercept it, sprinting back to the coach.
Make sure to remain in a low stance throughout the drill. When dropping back into pass coverage, remain square to the coach, keeping your eyes on the passer at all times. Sprint to each cone as quickly as possible.
Line touches help improve the general speed and agility required to aggressively pursue a ball carrier. Begin on the goal line and sprint quickly to the 5-yard line, touching the field at this point. Sprint back to the goal line and touch the field. Then sprint to the 10-yard line, touch the field and return to the goal line. Sprint toward the 15-yard line and return in a similar fashion. When touching the field, plant the same foot as the direction in which you are running, and touch the field with the same hand.