OL Part 3: Pass Blocking

Years and years ago, the offensive lineman that dominated the running game, where the ones every team wanted. These days if you had to pick one, you’d want the lineman that protects the QB more than the one that opens holes for the back. Why? The game has changed. It’s more of a passing game in this day and age. Again, the ones that can dominate both find themselves in Canton.

Communication & Smarts

Is even bigger in passing blocking than in the running game because the health of your Quarterback is at risk. The Center calls out the Mike Linebacker and the line adjusts the play calls accordingly. The QB can drop in various ways, 3-5-7 step drops, they can sprint out, roll out. The offensive linemen have to know more than who to block. They have to know what is going on with the backs and the QB. They don’t necessarily have to know what route the X,Y or Z is running, but they to be pretty bright.


The immediate goal of the offensive line is to protect the quarterback and by forming a perfect pocket helps with that goal, it gives the QB a safe area to move around in and look for the open receiver. When a QB has more time to throw, the more successful the game tends to be.  In the play below, it’s 4-wide shotgun set vs the a Dime Defense. They are sending 5 guys so there is a blitz out of the lone Linebacker on the field.  Had they decided to bring say the SS as well, then a hot route to the RB or a route adjustment to the Y would likely have to be called to give the QB quicker options, since it’s much harder for 5 to block 6.

Blocking Fundamentals

  • Stance — More times than not the tackles start in a two-point stance, guards can go either way. The two points stance is a flexed stance where it looks like he’s almost sitting in an invisible chair. Depending on the side of the ball you are on, your inside foot is up and your back foot is staggered.
  • Step — For the tackles more than guards the first step is huge. It shows the first signs of the pocket forming. The kick step back with the back foot starts the motion of the protection. You are gaining depth and position on the edge.  Some call it a kick slide, others call it a duck step.
  • Mirror — If you have a man on you, then he’s coming across the LOS and you start off mirroring him, staying in between him and the the QB.  You don’t want to overcommit and you have to stay balanced. This is where a lineman needs good feet. He needs to be able to dance with the defender.
  • Punch — Again, in the running game, the OL is initiating the contact, in pass-blocking, the lineman waits and punches as late as he can.  If you punch too soon, you are setting yourself up to being a victim of the bags of tricks defensive lineman bring to the party. The bull rush, speed rush, spin moves, swim moves, etc. If you commit too early, you are going to get embarrased and your Quarterback is going to get get jacked up. Keys are a strong base, balance and power.
  • Finish — If the steps above are done correctly, then you’ve likely won the play. If you can catch the defender at the right time then you use his leverage/weight against him and topple him to the ground.

While in run blocking you are controlling the defender and trying to move him from point A & B, in pass blocking a stalemate wins. You weren’t beaten. The QB wasn’t hit by your man.  The complicated part comes in when they send more guys after the QB than the number of lineman.  At times the defense might load up on one side or the other,which then forces the a protection change. One of these options is called “slide protection” which is shown in the 3rd graphic below.

5 man protections

This is simply the 5 offensive lineman. 5 eligible receivers are in routes, but there are plenty of examples of where the RB and TE block and then release into a route. In the example above the RB chips on the ROLB and goes out on his route.

6 man protections

This is where either the TE or the RB stay in and do not run a route giving the an added man to protect the QB. In the play above the TE Blocks & Releases  on the ROLB before going out into his route.

7 man protections

This is Max Protection. Only 3 eligible receivers go out for routes. A TE and RB stay in to help with the pass protection.
Just as there are various routes the receivers can run there are various blocking calls that can be made to combat what the team is facing, but they are much more complex than an out-route.

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