Coach Bass Columns,Coaches

Let's Talk Football: Downfield blocking is a balance of technique and effort

By Coach Tom Bass Wed, 12/22/2010 - 5:53am


Each week Coach Bass brings his 30 years of NFL coaching experience to USA Football. Email Coach Bass your question.

This is our last Let's Talk Football column for 2010. It has been an interesting year, and you have presented a wide range of challenging questions covering a number of topics.

I hope that I have helped you learn more about our great game and have presented some new ideas that you can use in your teaching. Thanks again for your ongoing interest and participation in the column.

Enjoy your holiday season and have a happy New Year. I look forward to an exciting 2011, and with your help we can explore every area of this great game of football.

I will be sharing my knowledge with you again right after the first of the year, and congratulations to all the players and teams that will be playing from now until we return.

Coach Tom Bass

Kevin had the following question:

I enjoy your articles and have learned a lot from them. I coach a 7- and 8-year-old team and a drill or tips to teach downfield blocking.

Our offensive line loves to hit. The only problem is we are getting one or two long runs called back for blocks in the back. They are taking place 25 to 30 yards downfield.

It's never the same player twice in a game. I don't want to stop the players' aggressiveness, and I love the fact that they are downfield making blocks.

Some coaches at this level tell the kids not to run downfield with the backs, but I don't want that. I want them moving forward. I always tell them that they have to see their opponent's eyes, and if they can't then don't hit them.

So far the penalties haven't affected the outcome of the games but in a close game it could cost us.

Hi, Kevin.

This is one of the great challenges in coaching. How do you teach a technique without discouraging aggressiveness?

It is hard, and I agree the last thing you want is to make the linemen not want to hustle downfield and get that last important block.

This is one of those areas in which you have to constantly talk about only blocking downfield when they are sure they can make a legal block.

The emphasis must be on making sure the blocker's head is always in front of the defender. Try to focus on the correct way to block and not on what they should not do when blocking downfield.

Make certain your coaches praise a player when he makes a legal block during practice. Stop practice and emphasize what the outcome can be when an illegal block occurs.

The players must see and be convinced how much their action hurts the success of the team. The first place to start is by showing everyone how many yards the illegal block cost the team. You might work that distance into a sprint or just have the entire team walk off the entire yardage lost by penalties at the first day back after a game.

One drill I have seen executed is to have four players with standup dummies 20 yards downfield. The five linemen, 20 yards away, start the drill with their backs to the dummies.

Each dummy has a practice jersey on it with a big F (front) and B (back) for the players to see when they move to make their block. Five blockers go at a time trying to block one of the dummies.

The player holding the dummy can move it and can turn it around so the back of the jersey is facing the potential blocker. The blockers are instructed to only throw their block when they are certain their head is in front and that they are blocking legally.

The coach can designate which dummy is to be turned prior to the start of the drill. Any player who does not get a block or blocked illegally has to go again. The players who make a legal block take over handling the dummy.

It can get to be a very competitive drill, and as long as you match the skill level of the blockers, it seems to focus each player. 

You might try something like this and use it as another way to emphasize the importance of making a legal block to the success of the entire team.

I hope this helps, and good luck for next football season.

Coach Tom Bass

Coach Tom Bass, a 30-year NFL Coach and a technical writer and advisor for USA Football, also is the author of several football coaching books, including "Play Football the NFL Way" (St. Martin's Press), the only authorized NFL coaching book, "Football Skills and Drills" (Human Kinetics) and "The New Coaches Guide to Youth Football Skills and Drills" (McGraw Hill). If you would like to order a personalized autographed copy of Coach Bass' books, copies of his printed "In-Depth Coaching Clinics" or "NFL or College Sport Maps," visit