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Football 101 – Playing Offensive Line

“Football 101” is a series by Joel Bishop that will take an in-depth look at formations, coverages, passing concepts and much more.


In this edition of “Football 101” I am going to break down the offensive line and look into the positions, their roles and how they execute.


To start off, here are the positions:

Center – As it says in the position name, this is the most central position of the offensive line. All lineman will be responsible to pass/run block but the center has the responsibility to snap the ball to the quarterback. The center will also have to make the right protection calls and organise his offensive line. Example of NFL centers: Travis Frederick, Alex Mack and Mike Pouncey.

Guard – The guards line up either side of the center (left guard and right guard). Examples of NFL guards: Zack Martin, Marshal Yanda and Kelechi Osemele.

Tackle – Tackles line up outside of each guard (left tackle and right tackle) and usually have to protect the quarterback from the deadly outside pass rushers in the NFL. Just like the other lineman, they will see responsibility in both pass and run blocking. Left tackle is usually considered the most premium position as he is protecting the quarterback’s blindside but will often face the best pass rushers on the opposing team’s defense. Example of NFL tackles: Tyron Smith, Joe Thomas and Terron Armstead.

Here is how they look lined up:


Man, Zone & Gap Blocking

In football there are many ways for the offensive line to block and create holes inthe running game. Here are examples:


Man Blocking Scheme

In this scheme each offensive lineman is responsible to block an assigned defensive player. In this scheme, the run game mostly creates a specific hole for the running back to run through. Here is an example:


Zone Blocking Scheme

In this scheme the offensive lineman move as a unit. Instead of having to block a specific defender, they are responsible for blocking the defender in their gap. If the play is to the right, then they will move to the right laterally stepping with their playside foot first. If there are no defenders in the gap the lineman is responsible for, then that player will block in the second level against another defender like a linebacker for example. In this scheme the running back will need to use his vision as holes can come from anywhere on the line of scrimmage. Here is an example:


Gap Blocking Scheme

A popular blocking scheme with the lineman blocking the gaps (like in zone) but to their backside whilst lineman from the backside pull and block playside. Here is an example:

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