NET X's & O's Feature - Zone Blocking

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NET X's & O's Feature - Zone Blocking
Fri Apr 17, 2009 1:55 pm
  • Since we've had a few threads pop-up lately with questions about zone blocking, I thought Id throw together a "column" with material Ive done in the past for NET and for my coaching. The following post will contain an overview of zone blocking scheme, concepts, and techniques for linemen and RB's. I feel this is a throrough primer that covers the basic concepts and scheme of zone blocking. Please ask questions if you have any!
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    AbsolutNET
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  • A lot of people tend to think that zone blocking is along the lines of “this player has this gap or area” and so on, but what it really is, is a tandem blocking concept that will give the OL a double team up front, and allow the RB to read a certain defender in order to find his running lane. For example, a right guard and right tackle may be assigned to block a DT and a MLB on an outside run play. What makes this a zone, is that they aren’t sure who will be blocking whom. I.e., the guard isn’t locked on the DT, he may slide off and pick up the MLB, depending on the route he takes. Below is an excerpt that I wrote for my own offensive playbook as a high school OL coach. It is based on the widely used "Covered or uncovered" blocking scheme (sometimes known as the Alex Gibbs scheme)

    Zone Blocking Concept and Rules

    Our zone concept is simple, but not easy. It is a simple concept to understand but it will take discipline and focused practice to master. Our zones, Gut (inside zone) and Blunt (outside zone) will be our bread and butter on the ground. This system will allows us to run one series both strong and weak out of any formation without giving anything away before the snap. This will keep the defense on its heels by giving the impression we are running several different plays from various formations.

    Our zone blocking system has three main advantages; it provides double teams at the point of attack, allows us to block various stunts and blitzes, and gives our ball carrier options on where to take the ball. Our RB will have a quick read, make one decisive cut by the time he gets to the original line of scrimmage, and get up field. By taking advantage of what the defense gives us, our zone blocking provides answers to the variety of defensive looks we will be shown throughout the year. However, no matter how good it is on paper, it will crumble on Friday unless we put in maximum effort to perfect it during the week!

    Our zone rules are based on a concept of whether an individual offensive lineman is covered or uncovered. If you are uncovered, meaning there is no defensive lineman on or shading you, then you will look at the next playside OL and see if he is covered. If he is, and chances are he will be, you will combo with him to the pike (playside LB). If you are covered, you will look to see if the next OL inside is covered. If he is covered as well, then you are both man-to-man and will base the defenders covering you (base). If he is uncovered, then the two of you will execute a combo block to the pike (double). Small adjustments may need to be made on a week-to-week basis, but that is the foundation of our zone run game. There are some technical variations (footwork, landmarks etc) between Gut and Blunt, which will be taught on the field. However, the Covered/Uncovered concept applies equally to both.

    Offensive Line Covered/Uncovered Rules

    Covered Rule (Base):

    ~ Inside OL is covered as well.
    ~ First step is always with your playside foot.
    ~ Always attack and hit the playside number.
    ~ Form the tripod with your hands and facemask, keep your hands tight, and drive.
    ~ Work your hips vertically up the field.

    Covered Rule (Double):

    ~ Inside OL is uncovered.
    ~ First step is always with your playside foot.
    ~ Drop step and attack the defender’s playside number.
    ~ Align your nose on playside # of the defender, keep your eyes on the LB, and wait for him to get to your level.
    ~ Read defenders playside knee. If it goes outside, fit up. If it goes inside, work to LB.

    Uncovered Rule (Double):

    ~ First step is always with your playside foot.
    ~ Work with the covered playside lineman.
    ~ Bucket step and two hand punch the near number of the defensive lineman.
    ~ Key the near knee of the defender you are doubling. If the knee moves away from you, work to LB. Do not chase a LB, stay on your track.

    RB Rules

    Gut (Inside zone):

    ~ Take a pre-snap look to locate "bubble" (the gap which is NOT defended by a DL) in the defensive front.

    ~ 1st step is flat & lateral with playside foot.

    ~ 2nd step must crossover & slightly gain ground.

    ~ 3rd step squares you up to start up field. Aiming point depends on where bubble is located (which gap is defended by LB or S). If bubble is over OG aim for inside hip of OT. If bubble is over OT or C, aim for outside hip of OG.

    ~ Read the block on the 1st down linemen OUTSIDE the center and make your cut on THEIR side of the L.O.S. If his helmet goes inside, cram the ball up field just outside of him. If his helmet goes outside, you cut the ball up field inside of him. If there is daylight in the B gap – hit the B gap – otherwise, if DL goes outside you cut back.

    ~ One Cut Rule: You are only allowed to make one cut and then you MUST get up field at full speed. Do NOT cut until you have reached the LOS and do NOT “dance” in the hole. By not making your cut until you replace the heels of the offensive lineman, you force the LBers to commit to a gap and the offensive lineman can seal them away from the cutback lane.

    ~Always attack the B gap if there is any daylight. If B gap is closed, look for cutback, but only make one cut and live with it!

    Blunt (Outside zone):

    ~ Drop step and aim for the tail pad of the end man.

    ~ Read the helmet of the 2nd down lineman OUTSIDE the center. Do not read the OLB. If his helmet goes inside, turn the ball up field just outside of him. If his helmet goes outside, switch read to next inside down lineman (usually a DT). If that helmet also goes outside, cut the ball back across his face. If it goes inside, cut the ball up field between him and the lineman you first read.

    ~ One Cut Rule: You are only allowed to make one cut and then you MUST get up field at full speed. Do NOT cut until you have reached the LOS and do NOT “dance” in the hole. The best cut is NO cut, but whatever you decide you must do it full speed and live with it!
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  • Lets take a look at an Outside Zone (or Wide Zone):

    As you can see in this outside zone, the RG and RT are responsible for blocking the DT and MLB. In most cases, the RT will come off the ball attacking the outside portion of the DT, locking him while the RG slides down to pick him up. The RG will aim for the middle of the DT’s belt, initiating contact and working his way around while the RT slides off and picks up the MLB in pursuit. The same concept is working with the LG and C. These are the ‘patient’ plays, where the running back needs to wait until he finds a crease to shoot through, because the holes aren’t being developed right away. The whole OL seems to take off down the line at the snap, and the running back follows behind, waiting for something to open up.

    RB Rules for Outside zone:

    ~ Drop step and aim for the tail pad of the end man.

    ~ Read the helmet of the 2nd down lineman OUTSIDE the center. If his helmet goes inside, turn the ball up field just outside of him. If his helmet goes outside, switch read to next inside down lineman (usually a DT). If that helmet also goes outside, cut the ball back across his face. If it goes inside, cut the ball up field between him and the lineman you first read.

    ~ One Cut Rule: You are only allowed to make one cut and then you MUST get up field at full speed. Do NOT cut until you have reached the LOS and do NOT “dance” in the hole. The best cut is NO cut, but whatever you decide you must do it full speed and live with it!
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  • And Inside Zone (or Tight Zone)

    The same principles that apply to an outside zone are present for an inside zone, but the philosophy for an inside scheme is slightly different. What I like so much about this, is that the priority is to get a double team at the point of attack to create a pocket for the RB to work in. While it is a zone blocking concept, it is not a ‘finesse’ scheme, as it attempts to power the focused DT back to the second level, making the transition for the guard or center to slide to a LB much easier. More importantly, it creates a seam for the RB and forces a defensive player to work through a double team to stop the play.

    RB Rules for Inside Zone

    ~ Take a pre-snap look to locate "bubble" (the gap which is NOT defended by a DL) in the defensive front.

    ~ 1st step is flat & lateral with playside foot.

    ~ 2nd step must crossover & slightly gain ground.

    ~ 3rd step squares you up to start up field. Aiming point depends on where bubble is located (which gap is defended by LB or S). If bubble is over OG aim for inside hip of OT. If bubble is over OT or C, aim for outside hip of OG.

    ~ Read the block on the 1st down linemen OUTSIDE the center and make your cut on THEIR side of the L.O.S. If his helmet goes inside, cram the ball up field just outside of him. If his helmet goes outside, you cut the ball up field inside of him. If there is daylight in the B gap – hit the B gap – otherwise, if DL goes outside you cut back.

    ~ One Cut Rule: You are only allowed to make one cut and then you MUST get up field at full speed. Do NOT cut until you have reached the LOS and do NOT “dance” in the hole. By not making your cut until you replace the heels of the offensive lineman, you force the LBers to commit to a gap and the offensive lineman can seal them away from the cutback lane.

    ~Always attack the B gap if there is any daylight. If B gap is closed, look for cutback, but only make one cut and live with it!
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  • Question: Thanks for the sticky. I read it every time you post, but this will make it easier to come back and reference.

    What part do the "line calls" by the center play in this scheme. I understand that Spencer had real problems and that Gray would make the "line calls" for him when they played together.

    Does the Zone blocking scheme take some of the pressure off of the center for line calls, or are they completely unrelated?

    ===============================

    Line calls change depending on the coach and how they want a certain series to attack a defense. Some coaches will say as long as you follow the rules to a given (run) series, it will work without having to adjust. Obviously its not that way for all coaches, and pass protection is a different story. The center needs to be able to recognize a front and potential rushers, and adjust accordingly. Ideally, zone blocking is supposed to combat having to do this since it is so flexible. You run into trouble when your rule is to block (for example) the playside gap, but the defense shows a front that if you do, a DL will run free in your inside gap. So you have to make a call to get help. If a center has trouble with adjusting rules ("plan B" basically) and recognizing fronts, youll run into a lot of trouble

    Spencer needs to be able to identify the front and potential stunts on every play, so no blocking scheme will ever eliminate line calls. Even if no adjustments need to be made, he needs to be able to identify what the defense is doing.
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