Football: Cues for Anticipating the Snap

Dick Moss, Editor, PE

The quicker your defensive linemen can react to the snap, the more effective they'll be. Here are several cues they can use for better snap anticipation.

Cues for Anticipating the Snap

  • Quarterback's Hands
    The late Derrick Thomas of the Kansas City Chiefs focused on the quarterback's hands. He found that many quarterbacks dropped their bottom hand just before the ball was snapped. When the bottom hand dropped, Thomas would attack.
  • Center Movement
    Peter Boulware, Pro Bowl linebacker of the Baltimore Ravens, watches the center for cues that give away the snap. Some centers squeeze the ball just before snapping it. Others duck their head or move their legs.
  • Wide Receiver
    Sack-master Kevin Greene often cued on the wide receivers in motion. The receivers' cut across the line of scrimmage is usually timed to occur with the snap, so when the receiver slowed to make this move, Greene knew the  snap was imminent.

1. Earl Browning, The Ultimate Football Coaching Manual: By the Experts (Second Edition), Coaches Choice, 2011.
2. Jeffri Chadiha, “Wanted: The most coveted player in the NFL today is the quick, strong outside pass rusher who wreaks havoc on an opponent's aerial attack.” Sports Illustrated, August 28, 2000.

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