Linemen’s splits are the spacing between adjacent linemen. Splits are generally determined according to the play called and the blocking assignment. There must be some level of consistency in your spacing from your line mate in order not to be obvious in certain situations. There is a minimum, maximum or smart split for each play. Generally a two-foot split can be used to help create natural running lanes.
Your alignment on or off the ball can be used as well. You must also know the rules. In the CFL your head and shoulders must be parallel to the line of scrimmage and must be within one yard of the line of scrimmage.
The use of these tools will not make the block for you but they will put you in a better position to make the block.
After you have approached the line of scrimmage and aligned yourself, you must now get in a good stance. Your stance is the base from which all the action starts. The key to a good stance is that you must be able to perform all actions from it. Whether it is pulling, run blocking, or pass blocking, you must not telegraph what you are doing or where you are going.
The keys to a good stance are:
- Feet – Your weight should be on the balls of your feet with your feet staggered (based on position) and about shoulder width with your toes pointing straight ahead.
- Knees – You should be on your insteps (the insides) of your feet with your knees not out and outside of your frame.
- Back – Your back should be slightly angled up and not quite parallel to the ground. This will keep your leverage down and allow you to rise up through the block.
- Head – Your head should be up but you should not be straining to see your opponent. Your eyes must be up.
- Hands And Arms – Your down hand must reach the ground while you maintain a comfortable and effective position. Fingers of down hand are spread to produce a tripod effect. Your other arm can either rest on knee or beside your knee with your elbow tucked in. Your weight should be distributed over the three points on the ground with not too much emphasis put on your hand as this will make you lean and unable to perform pulling or pass protection.
More times than not your footwork will win or lose a block for you. Your feet get you into position and give you the power base to make the block. If your feet are close, wide, staggered or not, moving on contact or not will all effect how effective your block is.
Some things essential to run blocking are:
- Open or directional step – Your first step off of the line of scrimmage will get you moving into position. This step is short and quick to get you moving low and hard. Never step underneath yourself because you will put yourself out of position.
- Second Step – This is your power step. Contact with your head and hands are usually made with the timing of your second step. This step provides you with the balance, leverage and power to execute the block.
- Wide Base – Upon and after contact, it is imperative to maintain a wide base. If your feet become too narrow, it makes it easy for a defensive lineman to shed your block because you will have less power.
- Power Angles – Power angles, those in your legs and hips, come from in-step push off. This means you must have your weight leaning on the in-steps of your feet kind of making you knock-kneed. This also almost eliminates crossing over.
- Choppy Feet – In order to sustain your block and drive the defender off of the line of scrimmage, you must have active feet. Short choppy steps generate power and will limit stalemates with your opponents.
Your footwork is key because your feet create your angle of blocking.
Upon the snap of the ball, you have to know the direction you are going and where to aim to get you there. Your aiming point or landmarks are usually points on defensive linemen or linebackers. These points can be inside number, outside number, armpit, etc. Your landmark is generally used to describe where your head must be placed for leverage purposes. This does not mean position blocking; you will aim your head to a specific area and then let it slip into position. You always want to take on the bulk of the defender.
Your aiming point or landmark is to give you leverage to force the defender away from the point of attack and off of the line of scrimmage.
Offensive linemen are often not taught to use there eyes enough or properly. Where to look at what to look at are often overlooked in technique teaching. In order to get your head into the proper position the eyes must be open. You must lock in to the aiming point such as chin, chest, hip, armpit or knee. This can be analogized to finding a single brick on a brick wall and aiming for it. Locking your eyes on a target allows you to automatically make the proper adjustments.
Up to this point we have got you to the line of scrimmage, split you from your line mate, got you in your stance, told you where to aim and how to get there. Now how do you actually block the defender?
In blocking, especially run blocking, it is so important to explode out of your stance. Offensive linemen have the advantage because we know the snap count and defenders react to our movement. The first few steps must be explosive with good technique to maintain a wide base. Your back should be close to parallel with the ground to gain leverage underneath your defender’s pads. You must aim the “nose” of your helmet for the proper landmark making sure that your head is up and your neck is bowed in a “bull” neck position.
Contact must be made with the “nose” or front of helmet and your hands. Your hands should be forcefully “punched” inside on the breastplate of the defender. This should be done with a lifting type motion to rise up the defender to maintain lower leverage. This will also help the offensive lineman to roll their hips into the block and to control the defender. Your shoulders must always be surging forward; this will keep you lower and not expose your chest to the defender.
It is very important to maintain power in your legs and not to become over extended or top heavy. Your shoulder must always remain higher than your hips. At this point the offensive lineman must arch his back and bring his feet up underneath his body.
The follow through or finish is the most difficult to master. To maintain and sustain a block requires great effort by the offensive lineman. After contact, the player must explode up and through the defender using short choppy powerful steps to get movement and maintain the block. You must force the defender to lose his power by staying under his pads and pumping your feet like pistons while maintaining proper technique.
In all running schemes there are always going to be double team opportunities for offensive linemen. Whether it is a downhill isolation play, inside zone, lead off tackle or toss sweep, odds are there is going to be a double team somewhere. Offensive line is the usually the closest unit on the team because no other position had the level of interdependency as offensive line. Bottom line, we depend on and work with each other every play.
It is a combination double team from level 1 (down lineman) to level 2 (linebacker). All combo blocks start as a double team at level one. Generally there is the postman and the drive man. The postman is usually the inside guy and is responsible for stopping initial penetration and not allowing the defender to split them. The drive man is usually on the outside and aims at the outside hip of the defender. He drives through the hip extending and exploding up to the second level.
Zone blocking double teams require the offensive linemen to read the defenders at the 1st and 2nd level. There are no set rules as to who is blocking the second level defender, it all depends on where he and the defensive lineman’s responsibility lies. A gap control defensive will declare who is going where.