Sinking the hips is a commonly used scouting term to help describe the ability of players to lower their hips and center of gravity in order to execute their assignment. For a receiver, it allows them to decelerate quickly and to aid in generating distance between themselves and a defender when running routes that require full change of direction. For an offensive lineman, it can help to lower pad level to aid with balance, such as when taking on a bull rush.
For a Receiver
For receivers, sinking the hips is vital to quickly changing direction and creating separation from a defender. The ability to drop your weight and center of gravity to transition to a new direction is desired in all receivers, and it’s especially important to receivers who look to create separation with their route running ability rather than pure physicality or 50/50 catching ability.
Sinking your hips is of the utmost importance on “full change of direction” routes, such as hitches and comebacks, where the receiver needs to come to a full stop and begin moving in another direction. Sinking the hips is less important on “full speed” routes like posts, go routes, and others because they rely more on speed and fluidity through the cut rather than fully changing direction.
A great example of sinking the hips for a receiver can be seen from former Stanford Cardinal tight end Dalton Schultz, who was drafted in the fourth round by the Dallas Cowboys. On this play against the TCU Horned Frogs, Schultz will run a quick in cutting route from the left slot in the red zone.
TCU runs man coverage, with a bracket on the inner slot receiver who runs a seam route. Given the route combination, if Schultz can beat his man with his route running and quickness, he should come open over the middle of the field.
Schultz will press forward for four yards before chopping his feet, sinking his hips, faking inside, and exploding outside. It’s both a nuanced head fake, and a well executed example of sinking your hips in the route running process.
Schultz is able to get wide open over the middle on this route, and while the QB makes a poor decision to throw to the double covered seam route, Schultz successfully sunk his hips to get open in the route running process.
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For a Blocker
When a blocker sinks their hips, it’s to gain or regain leverage when taking on blockers. This can be used against a defender who is bull rushing, but also comes in handy in most blocking situations, such as when an offensive lineman executes a base/drive block and needs to move their man. Sinking their hips allows blockers to get a lower center of gravity and better base to withstand the bull rush or generate forward movement while run blocking.
A great example of sinking the hips to take on a bull rush can be seen from former Notre Dame left guard Quenton Nelson, who was drafted 6th overall by the Indianapolis Colts in the 2018 NFL Draft. In Notre Dame’s 2017 game against the Georgia Bulldogs, Nelson does a great job of sinking his hips to withstand the bull rush of Georgia DT Trenton Thompson (#78), who crashes towards Nelson on a defensive stunt.
Nelson loses the initial battle, as Thompson wins his chest. However, Nelson is able to sink his hips to regain his leverage and stop Thompson’s momentum. This was a quick throw, but Nelson does an excellent job of sinking his hips to effectively halt Thompson’s bull rush.
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Sinking the hips is a common technique for offensive players in a variety of roles and positions. Not only is it a common technique, but it’s a common scouting term to help describe players in both the college and professional game.