The position group on the field that gets the least amount of recognition is the offensive line. These players do some of the most important work in the game, yet don’t get a lot of recognition. Play in and play out they face some of the biggest and strongest players in the NFL and somehow give the skill players (QBs, RBs, and WRs) time to make plays. Many people don’t realize how much skill it really takes to play on the offensive line; to block these players throughout the game.
Their job is to protect their players at all costs in the run game and the passing game. For each of these types of plays, there are different responsibilities. I will be breaking down assignments for both the run and the passing game. Let’s start with the run game.
When running the ball, offensive linemen always start with a step in the direction in which the ball is going. For example, if a run play is called to the left, the lineman would take their first step with their left foot. There are two main types of run blocking: man-on-man and zone blocking. Man-on-man is pretty easy to understand. If someone is lined up over them or shaded to either side of the lineman, that is their responsibility. If there isn’t a player lined up/shaded on them, then the lineman will help block the closest defensive player.
Before moving to the Linebackers, the linemen must make sure that the closest defensive players are being blocked. Meaning, if another lineman is struggling to hold his block, they help him before advancing to block the Linebacker. With man-on-man blocking, teams are trying to create holes for the Running Back to run through.
Zone Running Scheme
Zone running is a little different. It starts the same way, with a step in the direction that the ball carrier is running. Unlike man-to-man blocking, in a zone scheme, linemen will be assigned an area rather than just a person. Everyone moves in the same direction to create a wall and let the Running Back see where he can run. Linemen will take the first defensive player to cross their face. This means that they will block the first unblocked person they see in their path. So they might not always take the player lined up directly in front of them.
Pass Sets and Protection
The passing game is completely different than the run game. To start, the lineman’s first step is backward. Which foot they use first will depend on which side of the line they play. If they play on the left side, their first step would be with their right foot and vice versa. Every lineman has the same major rule in pass protection: play everything inside out. This means that they always worry about the defensive player closest to the center first. If there are more defensive players than blockers, the linemen are responsible for the players inside of them. Whoever is left is either picked up by the Running Back or a free rusher. This is done in order to allow the quarterback the most possible time to find his Receiver.