ITP Glossary: Scramble Drill

The language of football is often confusing: play callsalignmentstechniques, and concepts litter the commentary and writing about the game. In addition to providing superb content, Inside the Pylon seeks to educate and inform.  To this end, we have created a glossary which will assist even the casual fan in understanding some of the more obscure parts of the game of football.

Scramble Drill

A practice regimen used to train receivers and passers how to respond when pass protection breaks down and the quarterback is flushed out of the pocket. The drill begins with the offense aligned in the formation called. At some point after the quarterback drops back with the ball, a coach downfield will signal right or left and the passer will move in that direction – out of the pocket while remaining behind the line of scrimmage. The receivers must immediately adjust their routes to get into the quarterback’s field of view, while maintaining proper separation to keep the defense spread and to prevent defenders from converging. Receivers must also remain moving, and balance their positions between the short and deep field, often with deep receivers coming back toward the passer, and shallow receivers going deep.

The still picture below is from the New England Patriots Week 7 clash with the New York Jets. Circled is wide receiver Danny Amendola and safety Antonio Allen. To his left quarterback Tom Brady looks over his options: an outside receiver, Brandon LaFell, headed into coverage by the CB; tight end Rob Gronkowski bracketed by two defenders down the seam; and Amendola, who is blanketed by Allen: scrambledrill-covered

Pressure flushes Brady from the pocket, sending him scrambling to his left:


LaFell is deep and has a cornerback bearing down, Gronkowski is triple covered, and Allen is directly between the quarterback and receiver. But that’s when Amendola executes the scramble drill, cutting up the field and away from Allen, creating separation and a throwing lane for Brady:

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Mark Schofield explains:

Seeing that his quarterback is on the move Amendola breaks off the assigned out route, breaking his route vertically. Because the Jets are playing Cover 4 on this snap the vertical route is a wise choice. Allen over commits to the out route and allows the receiver to gain separation. However, Amendola still has one thing left to do: Catch the ball. His body control is amazing on this play because Brady is moving to the left and throws off-target. Brady’s pass is to the outside, and the receiver makes an incredible adjustment on the ball to secure the pass and complete the play.

The ITP Glossary is curated by Mark Brown. Others contributing to this entry were Mark Schofield.

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Inside The Pylon covers the NFL and college football, reviewing the film, breaking down matchups, and looking at the issues, on and off the field.

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