Offensive linemen don’t get much credit in football but they are the ones that make offense possible. It’s not easy to see what the linemen are doing but it is a lot more than just crashing into each other. There is a lot of power and force involved in blocking but decision-making and technique play a large role as well.
Getting Into Your Stance
Before the play even starts, a lineman has to get into the proper stance. The stance is important because everything a lineman does after the ball is snapped follows from his beginning position.
Offensive linemen get down into a three-point stance. This means that they put one hand on the ground, as well as their two feet. A right-handed player puts his right hand down while a left-handed player uses his left. The other arm, that is not used for balance can be rested on the thigh.
A player’s legs should be bent at about 90 degrees so he is crouched pretty close to the ground. The feet should be about shoulder-width apart, with the strong foot a little behind the other one. So a right-handed player has his right foot an inch or two behind where is left foot is lined up.
A lineman’s back should be as straight as possible and the chin should always be up. In order to be alert and ready for the play to start a lineman needs to have his head up. Get caught with your head down, even for a second, and you’re in trouble.
Now you’re ready to block.
After The Snap
Let’s assume your offense is running a running play. When football players learn to block in a youth league, the ball is not thrown very much so players learn how to block for running plays first.
During a running play, when the ball is snapped, a lineman surges forward as fast as possible to hit the opposing player opposite him. But merely crashing into your opponent is not enough.
On every play, a lineman needs to know if the ball is being run to his right or his left. This tells him which way to turn the defensive lineman or linebacker he is blocking. Let’s say that the play is being run to the right. So the lineman is attempting to turn his opponent to the left.
There are typically three steps a lineman takes before he makes contact with his opponent (a few more steps if he’s blocking a linebacker). These steps happen at rapid speed so it is important to practice the footwork. When blocking to the left, the lineman wants to move his right foot first. So his footwork is right, left, right, before he makes contact.
When you make a block, you want to keep your head up. This is so you can see what is happening but also to protect your head and neck. It is important to stay low. Any coach can tell you, the low man usually wins. So keeping your head low, you want surge forward and drive your left shoulder into the chest of the opposing player. This puts your helmet under his left shoulder. This gives you leverage to turn him to the left and away from the ball carrier.
Once you’ve made contact you need to fight to drive the defensive lineman back. It is important to remember to chop your feet and keep moving. Leaving your feet on the ground means you’re just leaning on the defender and he may be able push you back or go around you. If you are able to drive your defender back, do so until the whistle is blown.
Blocking is a difficult part of football and not the most glorified. But the guys who can do it the best are extremely valuable to the team.