Quarterback Technique, Drills, and Concepts

Good quarterback technique is very important, and players at this position are the backbone of any offensive scheme. Besides the center, the QB will touch the ball more the any other player on the field. This position requires a player to be resilient, mentally tough, and fundamentally sound. Yes, these are qualities that must be found at any position on the football field, but for a quarterback they are even more important.

In this section we will be discussing basic QB fundamentals along with different defensive schemes for QB recognition. Like a safety, the QB must have a birds-eye view of the entire field. He must recognize defensive coverage’s, stunts, and blitzes in order to make effective decisions regarding where to throw the ball based off of the defensive scheme.

In a way, the QB must possess a 6th sense. He must be able to sense pressure without necessarily seeing it, be able to see the entire field, and be able to predict his WR’s break in a route so that he may deliver his pass in stride with the WR. Much of the QB position involves timing and repetition in practice is key to becoming an efficient quarterback.

Quarterback Terminology

Under Center- Action taken when the quarterback receives the ball with the his hands directly under the center.

Shotgun- Action taken when the QB aligns 5 yards deep behind the center, while the center must snap the ball accurately and at a greater distance then when the QB is under him.

Punch Step- Step that allows the quarterback to quickly separate from the center, while receiving the ball from under center.

Quick Drop- A short and quick drop back in which the QB must use quick feet in order to time the route correctly. Usually a 3-step drop, depth is not very important here.

Big Drop- A deeper drop in which the QB must lengthen his stride. His footwork will be slightly slower than the quick drop. This is usually 5-step drop.

Hold- A hold lets the quarterback know that he must hold the ball longer at the end of his drop in order to let the WR’s route develop.

Pre-snap read- This action involves the QB scanning the field before the snap of the ball in order to recognize the defensive scheme and get an idea of what area of the field he will most likely throw the ball to. This can be done under center or in shotgun position.

Quarterback Technique: Under Center, Shotgun, & Drop Back

Under Center

When the QB takes the snap from under the center, he needs to be able to comfortably see the defense so he can make his pre-snap read. This means he wants to try and stay as tall as physically possible. His hands need to be spread apart with the thumbs touching and directly under the crotch of the center. Detaching the hands before receiving the ball is a big mistake that can result in the QB mishandling the ball. The proper quarterback technique for taking the ball under center is as follows:

Good bend in the knees that will allow you to receive the snap but still see the defense.

An erect back while keeping the head up allowing very little bending at the waist.

His shoulder should also be parallel with the line of scrimmage.

As the QB separates from the center and line of scrimmage, he will then utilize the punch step. This will help the quarterback separate from the center and allow him to get proper depth in his drop. It will also allow him to keep his shoulders parallel to the line of scrimmage at the beginning of his drop, and keep him from false stepping as he receives the ball.


Taking the snap from a shotgun position can be easier for a QB compared to being directly under center. He has advantages in his drop back, and his ability to read the defense.

Quarterbacks can also be more elusive from the shotgun position because they have better vision of their backside. The shotgun should also enable the QB to have a much smoother drop back after receiving the ball from center.

Stance is very important for a QB in shotgun, and much different from being under center. The proper quarterback technique for the shotgun stance is as follows:

Feet staggered slightly greater than heel to toe.

Back heel is 5 yards from the line of scrimmage. (Which foot is up depends on which arm the QB throws with)

Slight bend in the knees and the waist.

Arms are extended to receive the ball from center, with a slight bend at the elbows.

Receiving the ball from the shotgun position is something that needs to be practiced heavily. Since his drops are different than when under center, mechanics in the quick and long passing game for the QB are changed. That’s why these types of passes must be practiced so that the QB can become comfortable in the way he will receive the ball from the center and deliver it down field.


A quarterback’s drop should be well controlled, balanced, and never hurried unless the play requires it. A good QB in is rhythm with his WR’s, and has good timing so that he can deliver his pass at the end of his drop, just before the WR breaks his route.

A drop that is hurried and not controlled will not only throw the QB off balance, but it will also throw off the timing of the QB and the WR’s route. The smoother and more balanced drop of a QB also allows him to scan the field better as the play is in progress.

A quarterback will usually utilize the quick drop, and the big drop. The quick drop does not require much depth, but usually involves precise timing. Footwork needs to be fast in the quick drop, while having short strides.

In a big drop the quarterback must use bigger strides in his drop-back. It is important that the QB does not turn away from his backside during this drop. This type of drop involves deeper passing routes. Footwork should be slower than the quick drop, which will allow the QB to let his WR’s complete their routes.

As a quarterback reaches the top of his drop, his stance should be kept tight. Here are the main points of proper quarterback technique as he sets up after his drop.

Good bend at the knees, without bending at the waist.

Shoulders open to the line of scrimmage, while his back stays erect and not slouched.

His chin should be close to his forward shoulder, in order to see his backside and escape pressure.

Elbows close to the body, while keeping the ball close to chest as the top of the ball should be level with his sternum. The ball should never be moved very far from the body.

His front shoulder should always point to the direction he wants to throw the ball.

Quarterback Technique: Rollouts

The quarterback rollout is done under center and is good to use as a change-up during the game from the usual drop-back. It is also a good way for a quarterback to escape defenders while under pressure, and getting the QB out of the pocket to throw the ball. As a quarterback rolls out, he will need to have proper positioning of his body. His hips should be square to his receiver so he can pass the ball accurately. The QB either utilizes a quick-roll pass or a deep-roll pass.


The point of a quick-roll pass is to get the ball to the WR as quickly as possible. At the snap of the ball the QB’s first step will be at a 45 degree angle toward the direction that he will be rolling to. His first step should be slightly longer than normal.

After the initial step, the QB’s following steps should be shorter in order to get to the area where he needs to get the ball off quickly.

The ball should be thrown in his third of fourth step, while the QB’s roll should be 4 yards behind the line of scrimmage.

The main points of proper quarterback technique during the quick-roll is as follows:

The first step is a fairly long stride at a 45 degree angle (CRITICAL)

The pass is thrown off of the same foot as he would during a regular drop-back from under center

Ball is released in third of fourth step

The QB should try hard to step toward the WR as he throws the ball


Unlike the quick-roll, the deep-roll requires the QB to get much deeper during his roll, about 9 yards behind the line of scrimmage. This means his first step will need to be greater than 45 degrees so he can get proper depth. At about 7 yards, the QB will begin to slow down and gather himself taking a few more strides in the process.

Next, the QB will begin moving back toward the line of scrimmage and in the direction of his receiver. Again, his hips should be squared to the receiver he will be throwing to.

As he approaches the line of scrimmage the QB’s strides should be much shorter and quicker. Like the quick-roll the QB must throw off the same foot as he in a regular drop-back under center.

The main points of proper quarterback technique during the deep-roll is as follows.

QB’s first step should be a longer 90 degree angle. (CRITICAL)

The QB’s depth should be at about 9 yards. (When a right-hand QB rolls left, he needs to get a little deeper in order to correctly position his hips)

As he approaches the line of scrimmage, the QB should be moving towards the direction that he will be throwing the ball.

As he approaches the line of scrimmage the QB should shorten his strides so he doesn’t get caught between strides.

Quarterback Technique: Play-Action

The play-action pass can be a dangerous weapon when utilized correctly. Technique is very important here, and it takes many reps in practice in order to be effective at it.

When running a play-action pass, the fake is very important, and a good QB must be able to sell the fake. It is also better that a QB knows which defender he is trying to fake before the snap of the ball.

There are 3 basic types of fakes.

Sell Fake

In this fake the QB does his best to make the play-action pass look like a running play, even if it takes a few seconds.

Show Fake

This type of fakes requires the QB to show the defense the ball for a brief moment before pulling it back and setting up to throw.

Time Fake

This involves the QB showing the defense the ball, but it does not affect the timing of the WR.

The sell fake is great to use against defenses that may be over-aggressive against the run. The show fake will still deceive the defense but the QB is not hiding the ball. Instead the QB is simply trying to bait the defense, and then peel away to the opposite side of where he is showing the ball.

The time fake is used for timing routes among WR’s. In this type of fake, the QB hopes to freeze the defender, so to put him in a bad position. The QB will show the ball quickly, but also pull it in quickly so to get rid of the ball on time.

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