Discussion Board
  • Smokey
  • Veteran Member Topic Starter
This thread is for pictures, video, and explanations what is good blocking vs bad blocking.
It is hoped that this thread may serve as a place to post about blocking rules, blocking schemes, and the best blocking players past and present.

I am not an expert in this area, so I will be looking forward to viewing this threads post in order to become a better educated football fan. I encourage knowledgeable members to share their thoughts and opinions along with the educational material that I hope will be the discussion points in this thread. Thank You.

[cheers] [cheers] [cheers]
  • Smokey
  • Veteran Member Topic Starter
I don't know if this will post correctly , but I felt that I needed to try to share this material with this forum.
I'll also be posting a link for this outstanding expansion of our football knowledge base . I hope you like it too !


On the Packer board I try and throw up an X’s and O’s or a quarter review diagram every couple of week and people generally seem to enjoy them, so I’ve decided to take my show on the road if you will and bring it to the general board.

Let’s talk running the football:

To understand the strategies of the modern day running game, you have to understand a little bit about how offenses and defenses approach each other. I’m going to use the most common offensive and defensive formations to demonstrate this example, obviously things change when different players are placed in different positions, but for the quickest once over I can muster, I’m going to show you an 11-personnel 2x2 look against a 1-deep over-front nickel defense. If you don’t know what any of that means, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 RB, against 3 CBs with one safety in the box is all you probably really need to know.

To understand how run defense is played, you have to understand gaps, because opening gaps is the number one goal of the offense, and maintaining gap control is the number one goal of the defense. At the snap of the ball, there are 7 gaps that the RB can potentially run through. To counter this, the defense has 7 defenders. Each of these defenders are responsible for a gap, as well as any changes that could potentially occur involving that gap. I’ll get into those changes later. The predominant reason you don't see the Cover-2 played in standard sets is that the defense only has 6 defenders in the box to cover 7 gaps.

Notice that the 3-Tech (Defensive Tackle on the outside shoulder of the guard) is aligned to the strong side (the side of the offensive formation featuring the TE). The 1-Tech, (Defensive Tackle on the shoulder of the Center) is on the weak side (the side with no TE, you probably figured that out). This is to maintain the geometric rigidity of the defensive formation. The shades (What shoulder they line up on) are important for the gaps that they’re assigned to.

For instance, if you’re running into the Weakside B gap (Gap Number 2 on the above drawing) there isn’t really a good way to do it. If you use your guard to block the 1-Tech, the LB has a free run into the gap to tackle the running back. If you use your guard and go straight to the linebacker, the 1-Tech will slide into the abandoned gap and make the play. There’s no simple way to get everyone blocked, which is exactly why the defense lines up in that manner.

The trick then for the offense, is how you get defenders out of their gap. There’s a lot of ways teams try and do this, but the four most popular are:
• Combo blocking
• Zone blocking
• Motion/Pulling
• The option game

I’m only going to talk about the first three here, because the option game gives me a headache and trying to demonstrate it without live bodies moving around is difficult.

One thing I want to emphasize before getting deeper into this, is that the idea that a team is a “zone blocking” team or a “power blocking team” doesn’t mean that they operate within that philosophy exclusively. Every single team in the league uses a healthy mix of both. If someone describes a team as a “zone blocking team” all that means is that their ratio of zone to power is slightly more slanted in that direction than the average team. Every team uses both, and in a lot of cases every team uses both in the same play.

Combination Blocking

Combination blocking is the method most used by Power Blocking teams. The idea is to use a hard and fast double team on a defensive tackle, to temporarily give one of the blockers a chance to control the defensive lineman and pin him out of the gap that’s his to control. Once one blocker is in control of the defensive lineman, the other offensive lineman peels off and blocks the linebacker. The goal is to pin the linebacker in the gap that they were originally assigned to, creating a situation where there are two defenders in one gap, and no defenders in another.

When a coach describes a defensive lineman as being “capable of taking on a double team”, they’re referring to their ability to resist being controlled by one blocker. If they’re strong enough that the second offensive lineman has to stay attached to him, that creates an easy lane for the linebacker behind him to fill. This is what coaches mean by “protecting your linebackers” or “keeping your linebackers clean”. There are quite a few linebackers who were considered “very good” despite being average talents thanks to the talent of the men in front of them.

There’s two aspects to combination blocking. The punch block, and the flank block. The punch block comes from the man trying to rock the defensive lineman off balance, so that his partner can “flank” the defensive lineman and pin him inside. The punch blocker then moves on to the inside linebacker. The difference in the frequency of the roles operated by each position goes a long way to defining the characteristics of the different positions. Centers are most often flanking, so they need to be quick and fast. Guards are most often delivering the punch block so they need to be strong and powerful. That isn’t to say that Guards don’t also need to be fast, because they also do some flanking and are also the ones asked to pull the most. For the most part however, guards have the best pure drive skills on the team.

I grabbed this gif because I think it shows a great example. Watch numbers 70 (TJ Lang) and 63 (Corey Linsley) of the Packers block #91 (Ed Stinson) and #51 (Kevin Minter) of the Cardinals. This was a beautiful combination block. About the only thing wrong with it was that Lang didn’t finish and Minter slipped off to assist in the tackle, albeit six yards downfield. Also if Eddie Lacy weren’t a fat lard he probably would’ve dusted Rashad Johnson. Though Rashad Johnson actually is a pretty good player. He impressed me in this game. He made more tackles in the open field than a reasonable defensive coordinator would expect from a DB.

Notice how Stinson starts on Linsley’s right and by the end of the play is on Linsley’s left. If Lang would’ve just left for Minter immediately, Stinson would’ve been leveraged in the hole and in position to make a TFL, but because he delivered that quick shot, Linsley was able to seal that hole open. That’s the basis of combination blocking. It requires team work and a lot of practice.


Zone blocking is different than power blocking in the sense that in zone blocking there is no predetermined hole that the running back is running through. All of the offensive lineman are trying to flank their defender, just like the flanking block in combination blocking. Obviously without the punch block, the success rate is much lower, but with every blocker on the line trying it there’s a decent chance that someone will win.

The key for the running back is to be active and aware of every potential avenue. Unlike with power blocking where he’s running on a rail to a specific hole, with zone blocking he has to be scanning the line as he receives the ball. The hole could be anywhere on the line, and he has to be able to make a cut behind the line into that hole and take off. The idea behind zone blocking is that instead of having only one hole with a good chance of success, you have a lot of potential holes all with a smaller chance of success who add up to a good chance.

Zone blocking has existed for a long time, but it really caught on in the NFL with Alex Gibbs and the Broncos in the late 90s. If you think back to those days, Defensive Tackles were bigger and slower, and offensive lineman were valued for their drive skills over anything else. The zone blocking system was fantastic because it took advantage of both of those conditions. Giant immovable objects were vulnerable to being flanked, because they were rarely asked to move laterally. In the same breath, offensive lineman who undersized but quick weren’t valued, because they weren’t shoving guys around the yard. It allowed Gibbs to get good players who fit his system at bargain basement prices. It was a huge advantage.

In recent years, the game has changed. Defensive Tackles have changed a ton, from 340 pound power plugs to in many cases 300ish pound cat-quick athletes. Obviously they don’t have the same anchoring ability, but it’s very difficult to flank them. This has removed much of the advantage of running the zone blocking based running game, and returned the league to the relative equilibrium that we see now. It’s also created a situation where more is asked of defensive tackles. They have to be strong enough to anchor against the double teams they see when going up against combo blocking, but they also have to be fast enough laterally to survive against the zone attacks.

I grabbed these two gifs because I thought they showed two very strong zone blocking plays. The first one, TJ Lang does a great job, on #95 (Rodney Gunter). Rarely are you going to see a guy making a successful reach block on a man lined up head up on another lineman. It helps that Gunter plays this terribly, shooting forward than rather than feeling and moving laterally, but even with Gunter’s help, this was a fantastic block.

On this play Corey Linsley does a good job on Ed Stinson. Beating a man across his face is extremely hard to do, but doing so creates huge lanes for a running back to get through.


Motion blocking and pulling are different from the other two kinds of blocking because rather than coming up with ways to move the defender out of the hole, they’re moving the holes away from the defenders. The first thing that linebackers are taught at the middle and high school level is to watch the guards. Based on what the guards do, the linebacker knows what their responsibilities are. If the guard stands up, they know the offense is passing and they have to drop back. If the guard shoots forward, the linebacker needs to get into his run fit. If the guard runs away, the linebacker has to follow him, because the guard is taking his hole with him.

Fullbacks add another layer of difficulty to the mix, because fullbacks operate as a blocker that can be deployed anywhere along the line, the linebackers have to be ready to react and fill the gap that can pop up anywhere. Linebackers also hate FBs, because the live method of stopping a fullback is to run directly into him, have both of you fall down and have your bodies create a pile that clogs up the hole. It’s a painful play for a linebacker.

The evolution of football in recent years has had a very interesting effect on the “Fullback position”. As offenses move more and more towards aerial attacks, the need for a hammer lead blocker has decreased. Offenses would rather have an athletic tight end that can run vertically down the seam than a guy who works exclusively out of the backfield.

To counter that, defenses have moved to smaller inside linebackers that can run and operate more effectively while defending the pass. So long as these smaller guys have the instincts needed to get themselves in position, they can generally survive more with less lead blocking happening. This is becoming more and more popular amongst defenses.

To counter this change, offenses have begun using their TE in a more H-back way, using him as both a slot receiver and a lead blocker more than a guy stapled to the hip of a tackle. By moving him into the backfield and operating as a lead blocker, offenses can match up their 250 pound lead blocker against a smaller run and chase linebacker. This can create problems for teams that like to use the lighter linebackers. For that reason, motion blocking is becoming more popular than It has been over the last 10 years.

This is the one clip I’m going to show of a failed run, but it does a good job of demonstrating the effectiveness that pulling guards can have. Richard Rodgers doesn’t do a god job pinning the Cardinals DE inside and letting him slide off and slow down Lacy. Corey Linsley decides to peel back inside and rather than taking on the DB who eventually makes the tackle, he decides that his biggest issue is the front side defensive end who has slipped off the block of Richard Rodgers.

It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see this play unfolding completely differently. One poor down block and one poor decision is the difference between a loss of a yard and a huge gain. It’s always frustrating to play the “what-if” game in football, but humor me for a moment. If Richard Rodgers successfully pins Josh Mauro inside, you can follow the chain reaction. Corey Linsley doesn’t make the idiotic decision to help on Mauro and get in Lacy’s way. Instead he follows his assigned path and hits Tony Jefferson, knocking him out of the play. If you watch the video, you’ll notice that there is nobody behind Tony Jefferson. How long is it going to take somebody to run Lacy down with a full head of steam? Deone Bucannon has not taken a good angle in his pursuit here. This easily could have gone for six.

This next play is one of the most frequently ran plays in the league. It’s a FB lead counter, and it does a great job of showing how teams build these concepts on top of each other. If you watch the guards and the running back at the snap of the ball, this looks entirely like an inside zone left run. Seeing this, the entire defense moves to the left (their right). The only indication that something is different here, is that the FB isn’t stretching to the left, he counters back to the right. The entire defense is moving one way, and then the play dramatically shifts in the opposite direction, leaving the defense out of position to cover their gaps. John Kuhn scores a nice block on the waiting LB and James Starks has space to run. Only nice plays by the Arizona safeties prevent a huge run here. I really can’t compliment the Arizona safeties enough. The Packers did a very good job blocking, and when the game turned to safety vs running back, the Arizona safeties consistently won. If you’re looking for a reason that they won this game, this played a big part. It will be interesting to see if a non-obese Lacy will be better when given opportunities for big plays.


  • Smokey
  • Veteran Member Topic Starter
With the views this thread has had, reviving it just seemed natural.


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dfosterf (15-Sep) : Yes. I'ts tragic. Darn shame. I own his handcuff replacement, and he put up 17.4 points in our league
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Mucky Tundra (13-Sep) : How did Newman grade out?
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Zero2Cool (13-Sep) : The best news is I won my fantasy game and leading NFL Pick'em. Also, no injuries, right?
dfosterf (13-Sep) : ...and our punter looks good.
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beast (13-Sep) : I think they said score wise it was worst in Rodgers career, but I agree that the Broncos game seemed worse
Mucky Tundra (13-Sep) : the only loss that I think might have been worse was the vs the Broncos in 2015
dfosterf (13-Sep) : Was that the worst loss of Aaron Rodgers career? I don't recall anything that bad...help me out.
nerdmann (13-Sep) : Defense was hung out to dry.
nerdmann (13-Sep) : Defense is gonna be ok. They did step up a few times today.
Zero2Cool (13-Sep) : I doubt it. There's no reason for him to laugh. Coaches care about their players. They aren't tradiionally as petty as fans.
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