We are spoiled.
Not so long ago we used to see an OLine that would open holes left and right and a RB that would run through those holes as hard and quick as you could imagine.
That running game was rarely stopped and the opposing team's best hope was to limit them to short gains.
Oh, how time has passed... For the past few years the running game hasn't looked as dominant... And that's the thing, it isn't meant to be that way, the current lineup shouldn't make you think about the 90s OLine, the complexity of the blocking part in the running game is the one that will dictate the style. And that includes the style of the RB.
Drive Blocking. Pushing you out of the way.
Oh, the memories... At minute 1:23 you will see the perfect example of this kind of blocking. This was the strong suit of the big uglies in the 90s, plays in which the OLineman are supposed to open a designated hole and the RB is supposed to get himself through it with power and decisiveness.
The OLineman in this kind of system are known for their power and balance, because they need to make quick steps forward with spread feet and elbows close to their ribs in a wide base while keeping themselves low to the ground. Sounds difficult, and it is, they have to be natural knee benders, all 5 OLineman need to be coordinated and they have to carry some ballast.
One example of this kind of blocking is the base run:
In this play the Center shoots towards the NT and the Left Guard moves behind him and redirects to deflect the Mike, each blocker has a one-on-one responsability, leading the RB towards the hole left open, which he needs to hit as fast as possible, pretty much following the Left Guard. Larry Allen in his prime was a beast in this play, throwing LBs around as if they were rag dolls.
Another example is the lead draw or isolation:
Which is self explanatory, it's as close to straight up one-on-one matchups as you're going to see, in this kind of play the Moose is sorely missed, he had few MLB friends. And Larry Allen had a little of more fun with LBs.
I know, the best example of a Zone Blocking system is Denver and I found a bunch of highlights from Terrell Davis and company, I just found funny that a lot of Sanders highlights come in zone blocking plays, and it's easy to guess why, he was made to run in a zone blocking scheme, he had top notch speed, vision, quickness and instincts, all measurables that work in favor of the scheme.
A scheme in which the back is supposed to wait for the development of the play and make a quick decision on where to attack. It's easy to see that Sanders had much more freedom, meanwhile backs like Davis and the Denver backs had the leash of the one-cut zone blocking. They were only supposed to make one read, one cut and attack, even if a hole hadn't developed, all in order to minimize tackles for losses, which are easier to find in this scheme. But provides longer gains.
OLinemen in this scheme are preferred with light feet, vision, quick hands and balance, because trying to find a target that's faster and quicker in the move is hard, and trying to block him out of the way is harder.
One example of a zone blocking play is the toss:
Lots of moving parts makes for quick decisions on the move, the development of the blocks from the RG, RT and FB should leave at least one gap open which the tailback needs to find and make the cut into the hole fast.
Another example of the system at work is the Sweep with strong and weakside variations (this one is SSweep):
In this kind of play lies the importance of having a TE that can block and catch, a Defense that's facing this alignment is thinking pass and the QB needs to do a good job of selling the pass, but the movement of the Guards unmasks the trick and the RB needs to be right at the back of the LG in the B position to make it work.
Do-Dad. Jason Garrett looks up to Vince Lombardi.
We hear a lot of talk about the Broncos and how Alex Gibbs pretty much invented the scheme from the ground. What we don't hear is that one of the more creative minds of football and one that ran pretty much a drive blocking scheme toyed with the concepts, that he probably took from someone else, and called them do-dad plays.
The reasoning is quite simple, in reaction to what some teams started to do on the defensive side, like stunting DLineman and LBs stacked behind DLineman, he started adding option and movement from a couple of his "light" OLineman and in his word an example would be this:
"The center is the lead blocker -- the apex. He will lead-step, the same technique as for the down block, for the crotch of the defensive tackle. The offensive guard, using the same technique as he does in the drive block, will aim for a point which is outside the defensive tackle. If the defensive tackle has an inside charge, the guard immediately releases the tackle, picking up the middle linebacker who would be moving with the key of the fullback toward the hole. The center, since the tackle is moving into him, would pick him off."
Movement, development of blocks and options for the RB. Lombardi also used more variations, including the famous Packer Sweep. Later, Parcells would make use of Zone Blocking concepts calling them area blocks.
Drive Blocking Coaches using Zone Blocking concepts. We shouldn't find this kind of thing as a rare finding, maybe the concepts, but the schemes I made don't come from watching highlights of the 90's Cowboys, 90's Lions or late 90's - early 00's Broncos, those schemes come from watching and studying plays from the last few years.
You just have to look at the RBs, the common denominators between them? Vision and quickness. One guy is faster, another is shiftier and another is thougher. The best back in drive blocking? Barber, followed closely by Choice. The best back in zone blocking? Felix, by far.
You just have to look at the OLine, a pretty lame drive blocking line, but they create consistent positive yardage drive blocking and the team isn't willing to make a definitive move towards a zone blocking system and all the negative yardage plays that such a system can bring to the table, or going through the trouble of putting a leash on a back, which didn't work so well for Julius Jones.
I like it this way, this team can't run through another team when they know that a run is coming like the 90's team, so they should do everything in their power to keep opposing teams from guessing what's coming.
Just don't expect to see much of it in Preseason, the team is keeping the best plays under wraps, so don't panic, relax, the team will find a way to move the ball during the regular season, they know how to do it.