Use this rhythm drop drill to promote proper footwork and timing in the passing game

By Ken Taylor | Posted 5/27/2016

Timing is such an important feature of the passing game. Just a fraction of a second can affect the integrity of a properly executed play.

The late Homer Smith termed this the “rhythm feature of the passing game.” A sound understanding of when the ball must come out and how that calibrates with certain routes helps a quarterback complete passes that will beat the defense for chunks of yardage.

Unfortunately, many quarterbacks get into a hurry to throw the ball, and this leads to improper footwork. One error I see again and again on video is quarterbacks reaching the last step of their drop and being in a body position where they have to gather their feet and hitch forward to return to a proper throwing position.

No throw can be made from this position, and once there it takes a quarterback about 0.9 seconds to return to the proper throwing position.

The difference in that time has a drastic effect on the ability to complete a pass. The added distance of the receiver down the field takes him out of the window for a completion and allows time for a safety to react and break up the pass.

It seems like an easy fix, but many young quarterbacks tend to overreach the last step of their drops.

One drill we incorporate to help develop proper timing is a three ball, rapid rhythm drill.

  • The quarterback starts with his drop from shotgun and throws to a receiver placed at 15 yards in a position he would be in catching the seam. (Any route that can be thrown on the last step of the drop can be used in this).
  • After the throw and follow-through, the QB immediately begins to drop, and the coach throws him another ball. We tell him not to think of this as a reset from his stance in shotgun. Rather, he should drop immediately, catch the ball, get his proper footwork and throw.
  • A quarterback cannot throw on rhythm without proper footwork, so we tell him to not worry about the strings in the drill. Just drop, be in good body position and let it rip.

Practice film will show the difference between a good drop and an incorrect drop with a reach. A proper drop with a throw on the last step is evident to everyone watching.

Showing our quarterbacks the difference in how improper footwork drastically affects timing is helpful in creating the understanding they need as well as giving them a focus for proper footwork and timing.

Keith Grabowski has been a football coach for 26 years, currently serving as an offensive assistant and technology coordinator at Oberlin College in Ohio. He previously was a head coach at the high school level for eight years and the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Baldwin Wallace University. Grabowski serves as an advisor for several sports technology companies. He is a columnist for American Football Monthly and writes his own blog at He's the author of "101+ Pro Style Pistol Offense Plays" and five other books available on thecoachedge.comand operates Coaches Edge Technologies. Follow him on Twitter @CoachKGrabowski.