3 Components to a Great Defensive Lineman

Defensive line is an art form, not just a position. The ability to hold your ground and fight with heavy and strong offensive linemen, but also athletic enough to chase down quarterbacks and running backs is like no other. To play defense competitively at a high level, you must have a certain mindset. You have to be a DOG and be explosive, but also watch enough film to know what your opponent is trying to do. Hand combat is key to becoming a great defensive lineman. You have to be able to control your gap but also shed blocks and make plays in the backfield in order to be a productive. Think about it, it’s impossible for an offensive lineman to block you without his hands.

At my gym we call these everyday drills. 3 things that every defensive lineman should work on at every level.

Optimizing your stance

To be a great defensive lineman, you have to have a perfect stance. Not all stances should look the same because there are a lot of different body types. Optimize your stance by making sure your hip bend is at 90 degrees. This maximizes your hip power out of your stance. Apply pressure on your down hand, but not too much because we have to be able to get it off the grand to use in combat. Shin angles are important too. If your up leg (outside leg) shin is straight up and down, you are now incapable of generating force forward at your target. This may also cause you to play UP, which is a bad thing because we always want to play with low pads.

Get Offs

How fast can you get off the ball? This is extremely important as a defensive lineman. A great drill to increase get off speed and quickness is ball chase. Start on a yard line marker and have your buddy or coach stand 3 yards away at first. When the ball is dropped take off and try to catch the ball after one bounce. Video below.

Hand combat

We must know how to use our hands. A good drill for hand combat is with a partner. One player plays the offensive lineman the other is the defensive lineman. Standing up facing each other, the offensive lineman shoots his hands as fast and often as possible simulating a block, the defender must keep the offensive lineman’s hands off of his chest by using swipe and club techniques. Remember, we cannot be blocked if the offensive line are unable to get their hands on us.


Xavier Pendergrass hails from Roswell, GA. He has 8-9 years of experience playing and coaching football. Xavier graduated from Roswell High School where he played football, and made 3 state playoff appearances as a starter. He held the school bench press record, made Honorable Mention, and was invited to participate in the Nike SPARQ training camp. Xavier attended GA Southern for a short time before transferring to Midland University in Nebraska. Here, he majored in exercise science and was a part of the best defense in school history as a starter at defensive end, defensive tackle, and linebacker. After this, Xavier transitioned into arena football, where he played with the Sioux City Bandits and then soon after began his coaching career.

Be sure to check out Xavier’s social media for more football content!

Instagram: @velocity_xjp

Twitter: @Velocity_XP

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