can’t think of a more widely used play than zone read. Just about every team whether you’re at the high school, college or pro level has this play in their arsenal and I can see why.

It give the offense multiple options and can confuse the heck out of the defense. This is why today I’ll be detailing the 3 different techniques your D-Line can use to defeat this tricky scheme…

  1. Shuffle technique
  2. Heel technique
  3. Kill technique

Shuffle technique

When executing a shuffle technique, the defensive end is responsible for both the quarterback and the running back. The key to this technique is to put yourself in position to make the play wherever the ball goes. To do this follow the below steps…

  1. Shuffle to the hip while staying square
  2. Read the mesh
  3. Redirect on keep or give

Step 1: Shuffle to the hip while staying square

It’s critical you don’t give the RB a lane to run through. So make sure to shuffle to the tackle’s hip to take away a cut back lane.

Furthermore, you need to be able to make the play on either the QB or the RB. So make sure to stay square so you can easily redirect to the dive or keep.

Step 2: Read the mesh

In order to identify who has the ball, lock your eyes on the back of the RB (the mesh point) to see if the QB has the ball or not.

Step 3: Redirect on keep or give

Once you’ve identified who has the ball plant your foot in the ground, track the hip and make the play.

Feather drill

If you want to improve your D-Line’s ability to execute the shuffle technique, all you need to do is use the feather drill.

In it you can practice the steps laid out above at half speed (if you have an inexperienced D-Line or full.

Heel technique

Once your D-Line has mastered the shuffle technique, progress to responsibility exchange techniques like the heel.

When using a heel technique, the DE is exclusively responsible for the RB while the LB is responsible for the QB (you can also use the DT to take the QB using a pin stunt). So if you see a down block, sprint on an angle to the RB and tackle the dive.

Bend and chase drill

To practice the heel technique use the bend and chase drill to improve your D-Line’s ability to recognize the down block and chase the RB down the line of scrimmage.

Kill technique

The final technique is the kill. This one, in my opinion, is the most exciting and devastating of all zone destroying techniques. And the best part. It’s simple.

When you see the down block from the tackle all you need to do is sprint directly at the QB and wreak havoc. That’s it!

Be careful though not to dip your hand in the cookie jar too much. The kill technique should only be used as a change up to a base shuffle technique.

If the offense catches on to what you’re doing, they can rip through some very large seams in your defense.

How to implement

Great. Now you know all the different ways to defeat zone, but I’ve left out a crucial piece to the puzzle. How to use these techniques in a live game situation.

Don’t fret. I got you covered.

As a best practice, it’s best to tag these techniques with your base calls so your DEs know before the play begins that they could “kill”, “heel” or “shuffle” if their tackle down blocks.

For example, if you wanted to run a heel your call should look like this…

Even (front) 2-man (coverage) Heel (tackle the RB)

The heel tells both the field and boundary DE that they both have the potential to heel, but only if the tackle down blocks. If they see any other block, they need to play their base technique.

Well that’s all for this week folks. I hope this equips your defensive line to destroy any zone read they come across. Nothing would make me happier!

And whenever you are ready, there are 2 ways I can help you:

  1. Learn how to develop top tier pass rushers and a lethal pass rush attack here (1,000+ students)
  2. Learn how to turn your D-Line into a block destruction machine here (1,100+ students)


Oct 5, 2021
Block Destruction

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