Football 101 - The Zone Blocking, and Angle Blocking Scheme - Updated!

This is the ninth article in a series of articles where I talk about the basics of Football 101.

In the last article I mentioned that I was going to talk more about the defense this time, but I have changed my mind and decided to talk about one of the things that is often mentioned but not explained well that the offenses are now doing and that is to describe with a little more detail just what is meant by "Zone Blocking" and how it may relate to what Garrett is/was trying to do with our offensive line and what a "one cut" back may have to do with that. But first a word about Offensive linemen.

Offensive Linemen, more specifically the Tackles, must have long arms because in most cases, the guy who can get his arms on the other guy first is usually the guy that wins the battle. For a Offensive Tackle, the shortest arms that can barely do the job are around 32". Normal arm length for a tackle is around 34" and 36" is considered really long.

One of the reasons teams were so high on Alex Barron was because he had almost 39" arms. Now, that was one of the reasons I was hoping that Hud could "coach'em up" but he couldn't, in the Washington game he let the rusher get into his body which immediately took away his advantage and the rest is history.

The reason I mention this is because in the Zone Blocking Scheme, things like punch and slide step, ( more of O-Line techniques in another article), are not as important as you will see, because the O-Line is just taking who ever shows up on his right or left, and with the "Inside Zone Blocking Scheme" the linemen just take a step to their right and wait to see who shows up and block that guy. In the "Outside Zone Blocking Scheme" the linemen and the TE take a drop step with their right foot and then block whoever shows up.

Well, defenses started catching up and given the offense likes to go "BOB", (Big on Big), the defense figured since the Zone Blocking Lineman were chosen because they were agile first and formost, then the defenses went to much larger guys that the smaller quicker ZBS linemen could not block.

So, after the jump we will discuss the Angle Blocking Scheme.....

Everyone is aware that the opposite of Zone Blocking is Man Blocking, where each of the 5 offensive linemen are assigned a "man" to block and unless there are "Stunts" involved where the Defense trys to "Loop" one of the defenders to "flood" one of the "A" gaps or "B" gaps and confuse the blocking assignments, it is otherwise pretty straight forward.

Well the other two big standards are Zone Blocking and Angle Blocking and I will attempt to explain the difference and how they attack the Defense.

Alex Gibbs to me is the best Coach to ever put together a line blocking scheme and at the end of the article, I will futher explain why I believe it is true.

The biggest clue to which is which is if the "Guard" is pulling. If the Guard pulls, then it is Angle Blocking. With Zone Blocking, each of the linemen were taught that they needed to work together with the other linemen and just holler which guy they were going to take as the flow went to one side of the field. This takes advantage of a commonly known physics factor, known as "Mass in Motion."

If your linemen are moving at a fairly good rate when they finally engage, they have the advantage of the momentum to reenforce their block. This movement also took care of Defenses that loved to do stunts and confuse the blocking assignments. It also took care of the problem of having to block and run when there were 8 in the box. Gibbs taught that if you were able to block the 7 closest defenders, then the other defender would not matter because he would be too far out of the play to matter.

With the Angle Blocking Scheme the "G-Power" run is most explosive. The Center blocks the first defender to his LEFT because the left guard is going to "Pull" and the Center is thus taking his place. The big advantage in this is another physics factor, because the Center is not trying to take the defender "head on" but is moving him to the side which requires much less strength. This means that the rest of the linmen are also blocking "Down" or "Left" in this case which is away from the direction of the play or the point of attack. Whenever you hear that the Lineman was "Blocking Down", it means away from the point of attack.

The Left Guard also pulls and working with the Fullback, moves to where the ball is supposed to cross the line of scrimmage. Since the Fullback usually reaches that point first, he is responsible for reading the DE. The DE is taught to step with the RT toward the inside, which makes the fullbacks job easier because he just "seals" the block by blocking the DE's outside leg, and the pulling guard will lead the power sweep around the corner.

Alen Fanecca was specifically drafted to be the guard that blows out the DE if the DE stays outside instead of doing what he is supposed to do.

One of the ways you can tell if it is going to be a run or a pass is to focus on the offensive linemen, if right after the snap, you see "Low Hat", the linemen stay low, it is usually a run, but if you see "High Hat", meaning the helmets of the o-line come up, then it is usually a pass.

But with an Angle Block and Zone Block, it could be a running play instead and that is one of the reasons why I like it. Anything to confuse the "reads" of the defense.

First Here is the Angle Block sweep....

Angle Blocking

and next, the G Power Run.....

GPower Run

UPdate: 9-05-12

Zone Blocking Stretch Play

I thought I might add that while the G-Power might be the most explosive, the staple of the Denver Broncos and Mike Shannahn playbook is the "Zone Blocking Strech Play." This play looks very similar to the old Vince Lombardi "Student Body Right" and again relies on a back to either go to the outside and follow his blockers, or to do a single "Cut back" if it opens up. Again, one reason it is so successful is that since the O-Linemen all do a "Hi-Hat", this tells the defense, (incorrectly), that it is a pass play.

The Eagles actually run a variation of this where they first sell Run with the Stretch Play, but then at the last moment, Vick actually drops back and passes the ball. As long as the O-Linemen dont go more than one yard downfield, there will be no call for "illegal man down field."

Here is Brain Billick and a video clip of him explaining the "Zone Stretch Play."

Alex Gibbs:

Now, as promised above, a little about Alex Gibbs....

When he arrived in Denver in 1995, he insisted to be the only one to coach the Offensive line and the Running Back. He wanted a "One Cut" back, not a "jukeing", stutter stepping, shifty guy, but a guy that would run behind the offensive Zone blocks and if the defense over committed, then just make "one cut" and take it to the back side.

In 9 Seasons, he told the FO to not draft a running back in the first round and he would make anyone they picked a top rushing back. in the 9 seasons in Denver, Gibbs had a top five rushing team 7 times. When he went to Atlanta in 2004, they had a mediocre running game, but the next three years, they had the top rushing team. He developed the Angle blocking Scheme when he arrived at Houston and if I am not mistaken he is working his magic with the Seahawks and has been since 2010.

Not sure what I will do with the next article, but I will try to not wait as long as I have this time. IckesJB has made me feel like I should be posting more because I also would love to be a front page writer.....when I grow up....:)

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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