Line Releases for Wide Receivers

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The position of receiver requires a player to posses the greatest combination of athletic skills of any other position. Agility, hand-eye coordination, balance, precision of movement, deception, explosiveness, the ability to concentrate under duress, and toughness define a great receiver. “The ability to catch the ball within the heart of the secondary is like someone tossing you a T-bone steak inside a cage of hungry lions! First you’ve got to catch that steak and then you’ve got to get out of there without getting eaten!”- Coach Van Tassel

Now that I’ve painted a picture for you let’s look at just one of the things you’ll need to master as a receiver and that is line releases.

There are many different types of line releases which utilize the upper and lower body. When used in various combinations they will keep the defender “off balance” and allow for a “clean” release. These techniques should be changed up constantly as we want to use one release to set up one of the other two releases. The idea is to always keep the defender guessing as to which release we will use. It starts with what we do with our feet and finishes with what we do with our hands. The objective is to have as little contact with the defender as possible. . We want to be able to move the defender to a side and run where he use to be.

Release Footwork

The idea when performing the proper release footwork is to move towards the defender, reducing his cushion, and create side to side movement avoiding major contact with the defender. To reduce the cushion we start with what are called “jab steps”. These are three to four very quick steps and they are performed while moving towards the defender. “Jab steps” will always proceed the following footwork techniques:

One Step: Beginning with the “jab steps” we will then take a hard, wide (outside the width of the defender’s body) step opposite the direction we will be releasing. Once the defender has opened to the side of the large step we will then immediately “pop” off that step in the opposite direction attacking the defender’s “weak” hip. The term “weak” hip refers to the leg that the defender does not have his weight on. In other words, if we take a hard step to the right and the defender transfers his weight onto his left leg, his “weak” hip is now his right leg. The reason I use the term “weak” hip is because we want to slide off that hip and up field. Once we do this we want to immediately re-establish vertical “on top” of the defender and put him in an immediate “trail position”. This is often referred to as stacking the defender.

Two Step: Again, beginning with our “jab steps” we will then take a short, quick lateral first step in the direction we will ultimately release to followed by a hard, wide lateral step to the opposite side of our release. Once the defender has opened to the side of our second step we will then “pop” off of our plant foot, attacking his week hip and re-establish vertical up field in the same manner, stacking the defender.

Zero Step: The zero step release should be used only when we know we have the defender hesitating based on setting him up with the other two releases. If the defender hesitates, wondering whether we will be performing a one step or two step release, we can now simply apply our jab steps and then release to a side. This technique is the most effective in combination with how we use our hands on a release and that will be explained in the following section. Line Release Hand Techniques The idea when performing line release hand techniques is to manipulate the defender’s upper torso so as to turn him or control his ability to get his hands on us and stop our momentum at the line of scrimmage. The following techniques should always be used in combination with our release footwork.

Club, Punch, and Press:

The club is the arm we use on our release side to pin the defender’s release side arm. Defenders are taught to grab and hold as much as possible without being caught and we want to prevent them from being able to do this. So, if we are releasing to the right of the defender, our club arm will be our right arm. The club is applied by pinning the defender’s release side arm with our hand. We attack the defender’s elbow and not his forearm or hands. The elbow moves much less than the forearm and hands so it is a much easier target. Once we pin the defender’s elbow with our club technique we will then punch our opposite hand right over the defender’s release side shoulder. We do not “swim” as is often taught as that will expose our arm pit and give the defender an area to attack with his open hand and knock us off balance. Once we punch our arm through the shoulder of the defender we then apply pressure with that arm to the defender’s back side. This makes it very difficult for the defender to be able to turn and chase as we re-establish vertical and it also helps to propel us away from the defender and up field.

Club, Punch, Pull-By:

This technique is performed in the exact same manner as the previous technique accept that we don’t press the defender’s back side. Instead, we will grab the back of the defender’s shoulder pad flap and pull by the defender. This technique is particularly effective because we can literally rotate the torso of the defender making it extremely difficult for him to be able to turn and chase us up field.

Double Hand Slap:

The double hand slap is probably the most common and easiest hand technique to perform. In combination with whatever release footwork we use we will simply take both our hands and slap down the forearms of the defender before he has a chance to “jam” us or  grab any part of our jersey. As previously mentioned, it is very important to combine both release footwork techniques with hand techniques. An example would be using a one step footwork technique to open the defender and then finish by applying a double hand slap technique to assure the defender can not get his hands on us as we release up field. Often, if we perform a footwork technique to perfection we will have the defender so off balance that he can’t possibly get his hands on us. This would be what I term as a free release.  See our sample line release video by clicking here.

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