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Five most interesting new drills at the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine

The NFL is having prospects perform new drills at this year’s combine. Which could be the ones to watch?

NFL: Combine Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Every so often the NFL likes to shake things up at the Scouting Combine and ask prospects to perform some new positional drills. These usually come at the suggestion of teams who are looking for new information that fits how the game is evolving.

This year prospects are being asked to perform a total of 16 new drills during their various positional workouts.

To be clear, this doesn’t mean that all the old drills have been thrown out or that every player will be performing 16 new drills in addition to the established drills. Instead, each position is having a new drill or two swapped in and won’t be performing an older drill that the NFL felt wasn’t as useful to the position he plays.

You can read a full breakdown of all the new drills and the drills they are replacing at For now, we’ll just go over some of the most interesting drills and what scouts are looking for.

Run the Hoop

What the drill is

Two pass-rush hoops are laid on the ground two yards apart, forming a figure eight. Two towels are inside the hoops, one in each. The player lines up at a start cone (to right of hoops) in a three-point stance, fires off at movement of a ball on a stick (simulating snap), runs around the first hoop, picks up the towel with his left hand, crosses to the second hoop and drops the towel, continues around the second hoop, picks up the towel with the right hand and crosses back to the first hoop and drops the towel before finishing through the start cone.

What scouts are looking for

This drill is designed to show off a pass rusher’s ability to “bend the edge.” Basically, scouts are looking to see how flexible pass rushers are in their lower bodies. A prospect who has flexible ankles and hips will be able to keep good contact with the ground to get around the hoops quickly while getting low enough to grab the towel. In game situations, an EDGE with good lower body flexibility will be able to take a sharper angle around offensive tackles while maintaining their speed. Think of Osi Umenyiora or Von Miller rushing the passer.

Screen Drill

What the drill is

Player will set in pass protection position, then release and sprint toward first coach holding blocking shield 15 yards wide of starting point to simulate engage and release action of a screening lineman. If the first coach steps upfield, player must adjust direction and advance to second coach, at whom he will break down and engage. If first coach remains stationary, player will break down and engage him (and will not advance to second coach).

What scouts are looking for

Scouts want to see how well linemen are able to play in space. How well they are able to get into position, block accurately, and process information on the move to engage the mock defender. Screen plays have been an important part of NFL offenses for years now, but this new drill places emphasis on athleticism and mental processing as offenses incorporate more spread concepts.

Run and Club

What the drill is

Five stand-up bags are in a vertical line, 5 yards apart, with the final bag including “arms.” The defender will fire out of a three-point stance and run through the bags, clubbing the first with his right arm, spinning on the second bag, clubbing the third bag with his left arm, ripping through the fourth bag and flattening downhill to slap bag with arms to simulate a strip.

What scouts are looking for

This drill gives scouts a chance to look at how well pass rushers are able to use their hands and string together pass rush moves. The club and rip moves give teams a look at how well pass rushers are able to defeat offensive linemen’s hands and keep them from locking in blocks. The spin move shows off defenders’ agility, while the “strip” at the end is a chance for defenders to show that they can generate a big play. It’s also a tacit acknowledgement that the best way to stop a modern NFL offense is to generate a turnover and a sack isn’t the drive-killer it was even five years ago.

Teryl Austin Drill

What the drill is

The drill named after the Steelers secondary coach includes two parts. First, a player will back pedal 5 yards, then open and break downhill on a 45 degree angle before catching a thrown ball. Then a player will back pedal 5 yards, open at 90 degrees and run to the first coach and break down, then plant and turn around (180 degrees) to run toward a second coach and catch a ball thrown by a QB before reaching the second coach.

What scouts are looking for

As with everything with defensive backs, this drill seeks to expose or show off a prospect’s feet and hips. The backpedal portions will expose whether a prospect is able to stay low and balanced in their backpedal. The 45, 90, and 180-degree changes of direction will expose how flexible and fluid defenders’ hips are through increasing ranges of motion. The quicker a defensive back’s feet, the smoother their backpedal, and the more fluid their hips, the better able they will be to stay in tight coverage with receivers. Finally it will give the defensive backs a chance to show off their ball skills. This will be one of the drills that will help differentiate between safeties and cornerbacks.

Short Zone Breaks

What the drill is

Three different route reactions are involved here. First, the player drops at a 45-degree angle, flattens out at five yards and breaks forward (simulating breaking on a short out) before catching a ball. Then, the player drops at a 45-degree angle, flattens at five yards again and breaks inside (simulating breaking on an underneath route) and catches the ball. Finally, the player takes a flat drop and reacts to a coach’s signal to turn and run with a wheel route before catching a ball.

What scouts are looking for

It is becoming harder and harder to find three-down linebackers at the NFL level. As spread concepts become increasingly common, linebackers are being asked to do more and more. In recent years the linebackers who are most successful are the ones who are able to play in space, play in coverage, and impact the passing game. This drill will test how fluid linebackers’ lower bodies are, how well they are able to move in space, how quickly they are able to process information, and run with running backs on a very difficult-to-cover route.