Team Tackling 101: The Seahawk’s Compression Tackle

Compression Tackling 101….

If you haven’t already, go back to “Getting the Ball Carrier to the Ground: Team Tackling 101” and get the basics of team tackling down.



Brief review…

-Spill players (generally LB’s/DL) force the ball outside, or East/West.

-Force players (LB’s/S’s/CB’s) squeeze the ball back inside.

-Alley Fills meet the ball in the area between the force and spill players.

-Backside contain or BCR player (usually the BD safety or edge defender) does not chase sideline-to-sideline, but midpoints in case the ball cuts back across the field.

If everyone executes their assignment correctly, the ball has no where to go.  The force player squeezes the ball carrier inside, the spill players pushes him outside, and the alley fill meets in the middle.  The ball carrier is fitted from the left, right, and heads’ up.

The concept of compression tackling is used by any good-tackling defense, but the Seahawks’ video does a great job articulating the concept and demonstrating drills that can be used during tackling circuit to reinforce the concept. The video does a great job of breaking the concept down into discreet, bite-sized coaching points that can be taught and repped.

So what is compression tackling?

Pete Carroll defines it as a tackle that occurs with two or more defenders.  Compression tackles occur between players from any position on the field.  Sometimes it’s a DE/DT, sometimes a DE/LB, sometimes a S/LB, sometimes a CB/S, etc.

Here are some examples straight from Pete Carroll’s video…

CB and LB


S and LB

DT and DE


So what are the coaching points?

If you remember anything about compression tackling, remember the slogan “Own your leverage”.

Simply put, ‘Owning your leverage’ means that any player attacking the ball carrier from the outside will attack outside-to-in, while players attacking the ball carrier from the inside will attack inside-to-out.  If you have outside leverage on the ball, the ball carrier CANNOT get outside of your body.  If you have inside leverage on the ball, the ball CANNOT get INSIDE your body.  As you can see from the video above, when both players ‘Own their leverage’ they will meet the ball carrier in the middle (like a force and spill player).

The coaching points are relatively simple:

-Outside leverage players aim for the ball carrier’s outside hip; inside leverage defenders aim for the ball carrier’s inside hip.

-As both players approach the ball carrier, they  squeeze together towards their respective aiming points.  They must not squeeze too tightly or the ball carrier will have an opportunity to escape outside/inside.  Again, ‘Own your leverage’.

-When closing on the ball, defenders will “get athletic” in preparation for the tackle.  The body should be in position to strike, with the inside foot up.  In the Seahawks’ system defenders will generally strike the ball carrier in the thigh area with the inside shoulder. and chest  The head should stay on the outside and the arms should wrap.  They are taught to “drive for 5” by moving thei feet after making contact and wrapping (Go back up to the example videos to see the drive).

-Defenders MUST focus on the ball carrier’s hips.  NFL WR’s and RB’s are fast, shifty players with elite COD.  It’s easy to lose leverage if the defender focuses on the shoulders and head.  The hips don’t lie; always focus on them to see where the ball carrier is going.  It is also important for the defender not to lunge towards the ball carrier in the open field.  Eyes on the waist, keep moving your feet, and close on the ball.  While the ball carrier is trying to shake you the other defender is closing in on him from the other side.  Let him dance.

Here’s a clip of the Seahawks running the compression drill as part of their tackling circuit.  Focus on how defenders stick to their aiming points and “own their leverage” regardless of the angle they take to the ball.  Also pay attention to the defender’s bodies when they ball carrier starts dancing.  They “get athletic” and move their feet to keep the ball from breaking outside/inside.

Also, pay close attention to how the defenders adjust their path to the ball carrier when the ball isn’t thrown directly down the middle.  You’ll see the play side defender angle his path to force the ball back towards his partner while establishing his leverage.

Here are a few examples of the Brown’s D executing the concept of compression tackling, although I don’t think it is explicitly taught and repped as part of the tackling circuit.


-Inside-leveraged defenders attack the inside of the ball carrier; outside-leveraged defenders attack the outside of the ball carrier.  Meet in the middle and the ball has no where to go.

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