On my Forrest Lamp report, one reader asked me to describe certain blocks. Here is the best description for each;
TYPE OF BLOCKS AN OFFENSIVE LINEMAN IS GRADED ON
Backside Block…Used on a running play to the far side of the field - An offensive lineman (usually a tackle) steps out in the direction of the play, attacks defender under his inside shoulder, sustains block and cuts off defender’s pursuit. Done right, the runner will have wide cutback lanes.
Chip Block…Typically executed by a running back: Before running a pass pattern, he throws a quick block against a pass-rusher. The chip block slows down the pass-rusher so an offensive lineman can take a better angle on him.
Chop Block…Block directly, to a defenders knees or to the backs of his thighs, knees or ankles. This is often confused with a cut block, a legal block to the defender’s hips. An illegal, dirty play no matter what a Bronco’s lineman tells you.
Combo Block…Used on a double-team - Lineman A slows down Defender A with a quick block before peeling off to attack Defender B, leaving Lineman B to sustain the initial block on Defender A.
Crack-back Block…Used by a tight end or a wide receiver on a running play - Coming out of his pass pattern, receiver turns toward middle of field and cuts off linebacker or safety in pursuit on second level. The goal is to aim between thigh and shoulder pads; anything else will draw a penalty.
Cross Block…General term for trap and fold blocks, i.e., when one offensive lineman loops around another to engage a defender.
Cut Block…Used on a running play, usually against a linebacker: An offensive lineman fires out of his stance very low, drives into front of his defender’s hips and scrambles into him, often with one or both hands on the ground. This is illegal when the defender is engaged with another blocker.
Cutoff Block…Used by a wide receiver on a running play - He runs a 12 to 15 yard pass route into the middle field, finds the deep safety and nails him. A good cutoff block can turn a 15 yard run into a 50 yard touchdown.
Down Block…Block by an offensive lineman, in which he drives an interior defender laterally. The goal is to control the defender so that a fellow line-mate can cross, fold, pull or trap.
Drive Block…Power block in which a lineman plows into a defender straight on, ideally driving him backward out of the running hole. The blocker must stay low, take short steps, keep his hands inside the defender, aim for the numbers and keep his legs moving upon contact.
Fold Block…Block that allows a lineman to use his quickness on an inside run - After the snap, Lineman A takes a drop step, loops behind lineman B, then drives into his gap to block a linebacker. Meanwhile, Lineman B blocks the defender covering lineman A.
Kick-out Block…Used on a running play - An interior lineman pulls to the outside and engages an edge defender, usually a cornerback or an outside linebacker. The blocker pins the defender toward the sideline so the running back can cut inside. This works well in tandem with a crack-back block on sweeps.
Log Block…Used on a running play - An offensive lineman pulls along the line of scrimmage, then turns inside and cuts off first defender in pursuit.
Reach Block…Used on a running play - Instead of blocking the defender covering him, an offensive lineman engages a defender in a gap to his left or right by taking a drop step, moving laterally as if pulling, then cutting off the defender’s pursuit into an outside gap. The reach blocker must stop the defender in his tracks to open a hole.
Scoop Block…Used on a running play - An offensive lineman steps laterally and blocks a defender covering a line-mate, “scooping” him so that the line-mate can block elsewhere. Like a reach block, except driving defender back isn’t necessary; the blocker just needs to control defender and use his momentum to create a hole.
Scramble Block…Old school block still seen near the goal line. The blocker fires out low, aims for defender’s upper hip or thigh and controls defender with his shoulder.
Second Level Block…Block on a linebacker, defensive back or any defender who isn’t on the line of scrimmage at the start of a play.
Slip Block…Combo block used in pass protection - Two blockers take on one lineman, with one of those blockers slipping off to a blitzing linebacker when necessary.
Stalk Block…Used by a receiver - After running a pass route, he begins blocking his defender once that defender realizes it’s a running play.
Trap Block/Fake-out block…One lineman coaxes a defender across the line of scrimmage by pulling or pretending to pass protect. The other does a cross block, trapping coaxed defender while runner cuts inside block.
Wedge Block/Triple-team maneuver…One blocker drives a defender while two other blockers push ball carrier forward for extra power. It’s now rare, but sometimes seen near goal line.
Zone Block/Double-team block…One blocker peels off after initial contact with Defender A to engage Defender B while other blocker stays behind to finish off Defender A. Either blocker can disengage, depending on what gap or zone the defense is attacking.
Unlike most positions, where statistics are universally compiled, the NCAA has yet to embrace recording statistics and grades for an offensive lineman. Beginning in 1985, The NFL Draft Report sat down with several National Football League executives to devise a program that would be used in the evaluation of the blockers on the front wall. This category was aptly named “blocking consistency” performance.
The offensive linemen are graded favorably for each key block (resulting in a first down or score), knockdown/pancake, touchdown-resulting block and second level block, based on an intricate point system where 100 is the ultimate score and 80 or above is considered an acceptable performance. The offensive lineman will have points deducted for missing a blocking assignment that results in the defender recording a tackle, a stop-for-loss, a quarterback sack, a QB pressure, in addition for any type of penalty incurred or false steps taken during the course of the game.
Film view is necessary, as that offensive lineman is also evaluated for the way he moves on the field. He is judged based on a variety of blocking types;
Bubble…Area of turf between an uncovered offensive lineman and the linebacker assigned to a gap.
Bucket Step…Lateral Step taken before a scoop or reach block.
Choppy Steps…The ideal way for an offensive lineman to move. He takes short strides, keeps his legs moving and maintains strength in the thighs and calves. That way, he’s always ready for contact.
Covered/Uncovered… If a defensive lineman’s helmet is aligned anywhere between an offensive lineman’s shoulders, that Offensive lineman is said to be covered. Otherwise, the offensive lineman is uncovered and in great position to pull or trap block.
Double-Team…When two blockers take on one defender. For best results, one blocker aims high (near the top of the defensive lineman’s numbers) while the other aims low (around the hips).
False Steps…Fundamental footwork errors, like taking three steps instead of two when turning to pull, or stepping forward instead of slide-stepping in pass protection. False steps slow a lineman down or take him out of position.
Fan Protection…Pass protection in which all linemen are responsible for defenders to their outside shoulders, with backs taking care of any up-the-middle blitzers.
Finish…To block a defender until the whistle blows, even if the ball carrier has made the open field or is on the opposite side of the field. Good finishers wear down their opponents.
Four Hands, Four Eyes…A fundamental tenet of the zone-blocking scheme: On a double-team, both blockers should keep all four hands on their defender while keeping all four eyes on the linebackers attacking the gaps. That way, both blockers are at the ready to peel off the double-team to block one of those linebackers.
Gaps…Space between any two linemen on the line of scrimmage. In offensive parlance: A-gaps are between the center and guards, B-gaps between the guards and tackles, C-gaps between the tackles and the tight ends. On the other side of the ball, those defenders who line up head up on the blockers are designated with even numbers: 0 for center, 2 for guards, and 4 for tackles. Those defenders who line up in the gaps are designated with odd numbers: 1 for A-gap, 3 for B-gap, 5 for C-gap.
Key Block…When the offensive lineman delivers any variety of blocks that will result in his team registering a first down or touchdown.
Leverage…Ability to get lower than your opponent and keep your hands inside his. The player who stays lowest in his pads usually wins more battles.
Lift…To get low, thrust upward on your defender and use his weight against his, it is a great way to maximize leverage.
Look To The Sky… What an offensive lineman is supposed to do when initiating contact on a block. Looking up keeps the neck arched and the back flat, helping leverage.
Lunge…To leave your feet or thrust your center of gravity forward while blocking. his is a great way to injure yourself or your quarterback, once the defender tosses you to the turf.
Man Blocking Scheme…Blocking Scheme in which each blocker is assigned to engage a specific defender.
Pancake/Knockdown Block…To knock a defensive player flat on his back while blocking.
Pull…To move laterally after the snap to block on the outside.
Pull Step…Maneuver used to get into position when pulling - After the snap, the blocker pushes off the ground with his hand, whips his elbow backward to turn his body, then steps back and points his back foot in the direction he’s pulling. This must be done fast, as defenders won’t wait for a lineman to get set.
Punch…To thrust your hands up, hard into a defender’s sternum, just below the shoulder pads, it stops forward motion.
Scan Protection…Pass protection in which uncovered linemen must “scan” the field, looking for potential pass-rushers.
Seal…To control the edge of the line of scrimmage, preventing the pursuit by defensive linemen or linebackers.
Slide Protection…Pass protection that is shifted to the left or right directly after the snap in anticipation of an outside rush.
Slide Step…This is an offensive lineman’s initial step in pass protection. When facing an edge-rusher, the blocker must steps back with the outside foot at a 45-60 degree angle. But he must take care, step too far and the pass rusher will beat him to the inside; not far enough and the rusher will beat him to the outside.
Three Point Stance…The pre-snap position for offensive linemen - Back flat, feet a bit more than shoulder length apart, one hand on the turf, one resting on the knee, toes pointed slightly inward. It’s critical that the blocker doesn’t put too much weight on his down hand or he’ll topple forward when making contact with a defender.
Two Point Stance…Pre-snap position for an offensive lineman, typically used when in pass protection against an edge-rusher: Knees flexed, hands inside the thighs, back straight, the outside foot planted slightly behind the inside foot a bit wider than shoulder length.
Zone-Blocking Scheme…Blocking scheme in which each blocker is assigned to block a specific area of the field. Blockers often work in tandem (see zone block) to clear running lanes.
THE OFFENSIVE BLOCKING GRADING SYSTEM
I use a grading system where grades of 90% or better are exceptional, 85-89% is above average, 81-84% is average, 80% is passing, 75-79% is below average, 70-74% is a poor performance and below 70% is a very poor performance. I look for players to score at least an 80% for each game.
On an average, the top offensive lineman during the 2008 season averaged a grade of 83.22%.
I start the offensive lineman out with a grade of 70%. Players score points in the following categories;
RUNNING PLAYS-A lineman will score ONE point for positive performances based on back-side block, chop block, combo block, cross block, cut block, down block, drive block, fold block, kick-out block, log block, reach block, scoop block, scramble block, trap block, zone block and pancake/knockdown.
A lineman will score TWO points for a second-level block or any block ten yards down field that neutralized a defender.
A lineman involved in a touchdown-resulting block (pass or run) will receive and additional FIVE points for that successful scoring play.
PASSING PLAYS-A lineman will score ONE point for a reach block, combo block, scramble block. He will also score ONE point for each time he is successful in sealing off and edge rusher/linebacker, execute a proper slide step (review that the outside foot is in a 45-60% angle), and shows proper hip snap in scan/fan protection. A touchdown-resulting block on a pass play is worth an additional FIVE points.
Players will lose points based on negative plays. For each penalty, a player can lose TWO points for a false start and THREE points for a flagrant foul, personal foul or holding call.
If a lineman False Steps on a play (like taking three instead of two on a pull), he will lose ONE point.
A blown assignment on a double-team (fails to hit the defender near the top of the opponent’s numbers or does not aim low at the hips), failure to execute a bucket step on a failed scoop or reach block, losing leverage on a play (lowest man always wins) when he fails to get proper lift, lunging (leaving feet or poor thrust forward, losing center of gravity), sluggishness executing a pull step, failure to keep hands inside the frame to deliver a strong punch (beaten by counter moves) will result in a ONE point loss in each category.
Head-to-Head Competition-When matching up one-on-one with a defender, if that opponent registers a sack vs. the lineman, FIVE points are deducted. A play resulting in a tackle behind the line of scrimmage by that defender will cost the lineman TWO points. A QB pressure generated by that defender vs. the blocker costs THREE points. Lineman will also be charged a TWO-point penalty for giving up a solo tackle on a running play that does not generate five yards.
If a lineman makes a key block on a possession that will directly lead to the team scoring on that drive, he is awarded ONE bonus point. If a lineman recovers a fumble by a teammate, he is awarded ONE bonus point. If a lineman makes a tackle on a defender that just recovered a fumble or intercepted a pass, he is awarded ONE bonus point.