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Let's Talk Football: Tips for Open Field Blocking

By Coach Tom Bass Tue, 10/13/2009 - 4:59am

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

Greg sent the following question:

I coach the offense for a 90-pound tackle football team. We run a Double Wing Power running offense and are having trouble with blocking from our lead blockers. Is there a proper way to instruct our players on the fundamental techniques for open field blocking?  Once they get through the hole they are having trouble finding blocks and seem to not want to hit, but we can't understand why. Can you suggest any drills we should try?

Hi Greg,

This is one situation where I truly believe that having one - or better yet - two of the lightweight standup blocking dummies can really help in your teaching.  With the use of these dummies, you can place them at different positions, simulating the locations on the defense.  You can walk through the play, instruct your lead players to either look inside or outside as they come through the hole, and force the blocker to locate and block the appropriate dummy.

By executing a running drive block, the blockers can get a feel for running over the blocking dummy, keeping their legs moving down the field without stopping and clogging up the running lane.

My coaching point initially was to tell the blockers to run like they were the ball carrier and to drive into and through the defender shooting for a spot at least 4 yards from where they make contact. 

Once your blockers get a feel for where to look and a feel for running over and through the defensive player, I believe your blocking will see an improvement. 

If you do not have the blocking dummies available for your practice, you could have a player take the position with a handheld blocking shield if one is available, if not you may want to have a coach be the defensive player.

Give the blockers as many reps as you can and increase the speed of the play as they get better at locating and running through the defender.

Coach Tom Bass

Baptiste sent the following question:

I'm coaching a football team in France. I'm curious about how to teach good adjustments for pass protection in a single back formation against 3-5 blitzing defense. We are using six players (offensive line and FB) to protect. That's enough because defenses are rarely throwing more than six players at the QB. But we can have problems against those 3-5 blitzing defenses because we never know who is going to rush.

 I wonder what kind of read from the blockers could allow us to face every challenge: blitz from both OLB, from one OLB and one ILB or a triple blitz. Basically we are using a big on big pass protection, so against a 3-5 defense, our C is against the NT, our OTs are facing the DEs. The two OG and FB are in charge of the blitz and are the players who need to read and react on the same page. Is there a "mechanical" read to cover those kinds of situations?

Hi Baptiste,

It is great to hear from an American football coach from France.  The year I had the privilege of coaching the Castor Football team in Paris was one of the most enjoyable of my many years of coaching.

Now to your problem, I believe there are three different pass protection schemes that you can consider.

First would be to assign the nose tackle to the center, and the MLB to the FB.  In this case the OG and OT on each side of the ball would be responsible for the DE on their side and the OLB on their side.  These two players could either be assigned a particular player to block (OT on DE and OG on OLB), or they could fan block with the OT taking the outside rusher of the two and OG taking the inside rusher of the two.  In this scheme, it is vey important for the FB to be offset so that he can step up, give the QB room to set to pass, and still be in position to block the MLB if he rushes to the left or right of the center.

Option two would be to block three players to one side of the ball and three blockers to the other side of the ball.  In this scenario, the center, left guard and left tackle would be responsible to block any three rushers coming to the left side of the pocket, and the FB, right guard, and right tackle would have the responsibility to block any three rushers coming from the right side of the formation.

With this scheme, the center steps to his left after the snap and stays with the nose if he is rushing to that side.  If not, the center looks for the MLB rushing in that area and that would be his man.  The guard and tackle would have the choice of either assignment blocking to a rusher or fan blocking on that side.

On the side of the FB block, the right side, the RG would step inside, block the nose when he rushes to the right side of the center or look for the MLB to rush in that area. The OT should block the second rusher from the right (usually the DE), and the FB would always block the outside rusher from the right regardless of who it is. 

The third option is to slide the entire line to the right or left, with each player stepping to the gap on the side of the call, and blocking any defensive rusher that comes in that gap with the FB blocking the outside rusher away from the call.  You may find that the OT and FB on the side away from the call will end up blocking the same way they would on option two, especially if the DE and OLB both show a tendency to rush from the outside of the OT.

In each of these three options, you always have the opportunity to have a blocker on every rusher and the resulting time for your QB to set and throw.  Coach, I hope this gives you some ideas for pass protections schemes that may work for you.  You may want to teach more than one if you feel that your offensive linemen and fullback can master more than one, and good luck this season.

Coach Tom Bass

Coach Tom Bass, the technical writer and advisor for USA Football, is a 30-year NFL coach who has also authored several books, including "Play Football the NFL Way" - the first "how to" book ever authorized and published by the NFL.