How to Improve Football Tackling Skills
Tackling is the single most important part of any football defense being run today. It isn't the scheme or the players you have. Everything is secondary to tackling when it comes to playing defense. Tackling is what stops the offense from moving forward and if they can't move the ball then they can't score. It seems simple yet year after year missed tackles lead to touchdowns. So what can we do about it?
The first thing we need to look at it is to analyze the correct points of making a tackle. Notice I'm not talking about making a big hit. I'm talking about making a tackle. I'm not worried about being on ESPN's highlight reel - I just want to get the ball carrier to the ground as effectively as possible without him gaining more yards on us.
Proper Body Position: The body must first be in the correct position to make a tackle. Most missed tackles result from a lack of proper balance in the body. I know that not every situation is the same but to be the best tackler you should always:
Keep your knees bent
Get your butt down
Keep your head up
Have your arms bent slightly back
This coils your body correctly to let you be able to move forward on the ball carrier quickly and with lots of force.
Explode up: The lower you are to the ground the better when making a tackle. The lower player tends to have more leverage. Once you are low to the ground and come up you will use your leg and butt muscles to drive up. This gets the ball carrier straight up and takes away their momentum to keep moving forward.
Chest to chest: Really strive to make chest to chest contact. If your head is in the chest then you will be unable to wrap around the ball carrier to tackle him. Sure you may hit him hard but you won't be able to really tackle him. It's pretty cool to watch a big hit take place but it's not cool to watch someone initiate a huge collision and then let the player go free for a 25 yard gain because he failed to wrap up. If you are chest to chest then your head will be up and your arms will be able to get around the ball carrier to get him down.
Focus on the waist: Players get faked out when they lose their focus. When a ball carrier is coming at you try to focus on his waist and you won't get faked out by head or shoulder moves. You'll notice everything will go in slow motion as you move forward ready to make the tackle.
Many defensive players simply get caught up in making big hits instead of correct tackling. When you watch Ray Lewis play linebacker for the Ravens you'll watch a guy who does things correctly. By doing it correctly he has been able to remain basically injury free and be the best at what he does. Stay on balance, keep your head up and focus on the tackle and you'll find yourself quickly getting on the field more and making more plays.