Part 2, learning about the OL: Run Blocking

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For introductory to the OL, go here.

Run Blocking

If you watched much Denver football, then you may have heard or seen the phrase, Zone Blocking Scheme or Power Gap/Power Running/Power Blocking, whatever name that uses power. What does it mean?

Quickly, a ZBS is a blocking scheme Mike Shanahan installed in his WCO with the help of Alex Gibbs, a ZBS Guru. Gary Kubiak continued that tradition. It is not exclusive to the WCO. Adam Gase uses it in Miami and that isn’t a WCO.  As we discussed, the OL buddies up, almost hip to hip and slides to a side, along the line of scrimmage, moving the defenders with them. They are responsible for a zone and depending on the play, the C/G or G/T act like one, moving aside whomever is in front of them. Because the QB is under Center, when he drops back, he’s often moving with the line. WCO plays are quick because it relies on short passes or running, so the OL isn’t holding guys off for more than 2 seconds. These guys need good feet, be quick and have a good punch. Because they need to be more agile, they’re smaller than guys in a power gap.

The two diagrams above show a similar play with different blocking concepts.

Zone Block Scheme: On the play on the left, you’ll notice the LG/C  (white jersey) working together and the RG/RT (orange jersey) working together. The pair of guards are both uncovered. The lineman to their right are covered. The pair of guards will each reach step to the that defensive lineman. The Center and Right Tackle in this case, will come off through the defender that they are head up on helping to turn them for their partner to control, they then release downfield and move on to the linebacker. This in some offenses is called a co-op block, some call it a combo. It’s not a pure double team because one OL is leaving to pickup another defender. You’ll notice that the LT/RTE (navy jersey) are on their own to block their assignment.  One thing that can be slightly different with the ZBS is that while the play call might be 24, the RB has to have the vision to go where the hole is. In this case it’s designed to go off tackle, but the defense could have a stunt (where the players move in a direction) that could disrupt what the OL has planned, and they are forced to deal with what is presented, and that might make the hole bounce out side more.

Rules: The concept on the right I’m referring to rule blocking, because that is a concept where in their playbook they have terms, such as “Man On”, Playside, Backside, combo to LB”, or they will have technique #’s as their rules, for example:

  • LT: Reach/1st man that crosses your face.
  • LG: Reach/1st man that crosses your face (in this case it’s the Center)
  • C: 0, onside, backside,  1, co-op to linebacker
  • RG: 2, 3, LB
  • RT, 4, 5 , co-op 3 to LB

So taking the RT. he’s covered with a 4 technique, so that is his man.  RG is uncovered (no 2, or 3), so he goes straight to the LB, C is covered with a 0 weak shade, which is (backside), so he hits that man and then releases to the LB handing off the NT to the LG, who is taking a reach step and picking up the first person that crosses his face, in this case it’s the 0/shade/weak.  The LT, takes a reach step and if he can get to the ILB, then great, if not he finds someone to hit, but the ILB if he’s decent is reading his keys in the backfield and is flowing towards the back as he’s moving to the hole. If a defender due to a blitz/stunt takes himself out of the play, for example in the play on the right above, the RG has a rule of 2,3, LB, with the play going to the right of the offense, if the LB has some type of twist stunt game that takes him to the left side of the offense, then the G doesn’t follow/track/trail him, he simply  moves on to a S or CB or escorts the back down field if it’s broken for a big gain.

From a QB/RB perspective, most everything is run the same, the RB (2 back in this case is running off-tackle through the 4 hole, hence the play call 24.  It simply shows two ways to block the same play with the only minor difference being in the zone version, the hole can move a bit more at times based on the what the defense is doing, so the RB has to read what is in front of him.

Play Calling:  In the huddle or at the LOS, the QB calls the play. Depending on how much the process is streamlined, the OL can get a lot of information laid for them, or a couple of words which they have to know the meaning for. So they know what play to run.  In either version, they are given Formation/play call/special instructions/snap count.  They go to the LOS, and as mentioned in the intro piece, they communicate with the neighbor, and let them know what they are faced with. They can request help for a double team in some cases. Communication is  again a key.

Here is a quick review of  OL/DL terms/concepts that come into play.


Go here for Part 3, Pass Protection.

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