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Quarterback Drops: 3,5,7 Step and Quick Game

For passing attacks to be successful, the quarterback must master the 3, 5, 7 steps and quick game footwork.

The Quarterback must have a mixed back of fundamentals. A big part of the QB’s fundamentals is their footwork. QB’s must have quick, rhythmic feet when they are dropping back to pass.

In this article, we’re going to teach you about the 3, 5, 7 step drops and how offenses use a quick game to throw the football downfield.

Quarterback Drops Introduction

A quarterback will have a designated amount of steps that he should take on every passing play in football. This is to ensure that the timing of the play works out.

Most coaches highly emphasize timing for quarterbacks. QBs need to take the right steps because the receivers are running certain routes depending on the QB’s drop is, and the offensive line is blocking a certain way.

3 Step Drop By A Quarterback

The first drop we will discuss is the 3-step. The 3-step is typically meant for quick game concepts, meaning that the receiver’s routes will be short. The quarterback must drop back quickly and get the ball out of his hands.

The first separation step from the line is crucial. If the QB is right-handed, his right leg will go back first and vice versa if he’s a lefty. A “False step” can affect the timing of the play in a poor way.

After the first separation step from the line, the QB will crossover using his other leg. Then, on the third step, he will be planted and ready to throw the ball. If the QB is taking a shotgun snap and is still a quick game concept, he will take a 1 step drop to keep the same timing. There is also no need for them to drop back further since they already have a separation by being in the shotgun.

5 Step Drop By A Quarterback

A 5 step drop from under similar is a bit harder than a 3 step drop. However, they are both similar. For a 5 step drop, the routes associated with it will be longer developing routes. They are usually intermediate to deep routes. A few examples may be a post, curl, corner or dig.

Like a 3 step, the quarterback’s first step will get distance from the line of scrimmage, and then he will crossover and plant. After he plants his 3rd step, he will crossover again then plant to get to his 5th step. Depending on the route, the QB may release the ball on his 5th step or reset his feet.

During a 3 step drop, the QB should never take a hitch step since he is already close to the line of scrimmage. The offensive line will not be expecting him to move up in the pocket. However, for a 5 step drop, the QB is enough away for the Quarterback to climb up in the pocket.

Another key point that QB must know regarding footwork is that they have to drop straight back. The offensive line expects the QB to drop straight back, blocking their defenders based on the path. If the QB is in shotgun and the offense runs a 5 step concept, he will take a 3 step drop.

the football handbook

7 Step Drop By A Quarterback

The 7 step drop is something that is rarely used at the youth or high school level. It is used more in college and at the pro level.

It also requires a solid offensive line since it is long developing. Concepts that are associated with the 7 steps are usually “Shot plays.” This is when the coach wants to take a stab at a play downfield. Usually, this is a 6 man protection or a “Max protection,” meaning that there will be 7 or 8 players to protect the QB.

Routes that can be thrown off a 7 step may be flys, deep posts, post corner, post dig, and corner post. A QB’s footwork for a 7 step drop is the same steps as a 5 step, except now with an extra crossover and plant. If the QB is in the gun and the team runs a 7 step concept, they will take a 5 step drop.

Quick Game In Football

Now, let’s apply the 3 step drop. As I mentioned in the 3 step section, the QB must release the ball on his 3rd step or soon after. Quick game routes are short routes where the QB can get the ball out as fast as possible.

The first quick game route I will mention is the “hitch.” On this concept, every receiver is running a 5-yard hitch. The QB must make a pre-snap read to determine where they will most likely throw the ball. For example, if the cornerback is 10 yards off from a wide receiver, the QB will take the easy, quick game throw.

The next concept I will talk about is “Slant-flat.” This may be mirrored on both sides of the field. The QB’s pre-snap read will determine which side he is throwing the ball on. For example, if there are 3 defenders on one side of the field and only 2 on the other, the QB should go where there are 2 defenders. Once the ball is snapped, the QB should read the linebacker lined up on the slot receiver. If he runs to the flat, the slant should be thrown. If he stays home in a zone, the flat should be thrown.


The quarterback must always know what he is taking for a drop back to make sure that the play’s timing is there. They must also understand why they are taking that drop on each particular play.

The QB has a tremendous amount of pressure to succeed. To succeed under that pressure, they must be able to master the proper footwork.

Related Q & A

Which Drop-Backs Should I Teach First?

A: The step drop from under the center should be taught first. Without a solid 3 step, the QB will not have a good 5 or 7 step. The 1 step from the shotgun should also be taught at the same time as the 3 steps from under the center.

How Do I Improve My Drop-Backs As a QB?

A: This is something that will take lots of reps. Film yourself doing it and ask other coaches / experienced players to help you out. Watch how a lot of pro QBs drop back. Once you find out what you’re doing wrong, there are many drills you can do to get better. Reference the video above for visual help.

Am I Allowed To Take a Hitch Step Forward In The Pocket In a 3 Step Drop?

A: No. It would be best if you never climbed up in the pocket on a 3 step drop from the under center. Sometimes you may pause for a quick second at the top of your drop, but you do not want to climb on a 3 step.