Understand the zone blocking scheme in football (2023)


Understand the zone blocking scheme in soccer


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Understand the zone blocking scheme in football (3)

Zone blocking is a forward blocking style developed by offensive coaches in response to a new style of defense.

For years, blocking responsibility was given to men. This was very similar to a man-to-man defense.

Man-blocking schemes gave each attacker the responsibility of blocking a specific defender each play.

In theory it was great...

This simplified the roles and responsibilities of each attacker as they should only be concerned with one defender.

This made it very easy to teach, especially for younger football players who are just learning the game.

But then smart defensive trainers uncovered a gap in the man's blocking system.

They devised what they called a pitch and angle scheme, which threw a large wrench into the man's lock-on approach.

The new defense scheme completely disrupted the man's block thinking and found many holes in the approach.

This led to the offensive coaches trying to come up with a new blocking scheme that would counteract the pitch and angle scheme and also protect against any future defensive schemes the coaches might come up with.

This is how the zone blocking scheme was created.

Let's take a closer look at what the zone lock scheme is all about, starting with the man lock problem caused by the tilt and angle defense.

The problem of the male blockade

Understand the zone blocking scheme in football (4)

Understand the zone blocking scheme in football (5)

The tilt and angle defense revealed a fatal flaw in the man-blocking scheme: attackers were encouraged to follow their designated defender wherever they went.

This meant that if the attacker's order went to the left, he would be forced to follow it, and vice versa.

So what the defensive coaches did was tell all defenders to lean one way or the other after the snap.

By leaning the linebackers in a certain direction, he would get the linebackers to follow them, which would prevent other linebackers from blocking the linebackers.

This in turn would make it possibleLinebackerto run free and unblocked, to make easy tackles in the game, or to get to the quarterback on passing plays.

See how it works.

First, all defenders would line up head-up over an offensive lineman.

In the middle, everyone leaned left or right depending on which defensive play was called, getting into the space between two linemen.

Once the offensive lineman assigned to that fielder was asked to follow him based on the man's blocking scheme, he steered the offensive lineman to his side.

He would then have to attempt to fight his way through or around the defender now in his space to get to his blocking responsibility, the linebacker.

The easiest example to see how this works is to talk about the defensive end.

The winger would line up face down during offensive tackles.

In this game, the offensive tackle would have man-blocking responsibility for the defensive end, while the offensive warden would have man-blocking responsibility for linebacker Sam.

Right now, the defensive end was leaning quickly to the right, past the B gap between guard and tackle.

The tackle would have to follow last, based on his male blocking responsibility.

This would do one of two things, both of which are good for defense.

  1. The tackle would miss the block, forcing the point guard to pick up the defensive end or allowing the end to quickly break through the defense.
  2. The tackle would take the block but distract the guard in the process.

In either case, the guard would be unable to reach linebacker Sam in time to make a successful block.

That would free Sam to take a big step.

The solution: zone blocking

As you can see from the description and pictures, the tilt and angle defense scheme presented a big problem for human blocking schemes.

Offensive coaches had to find a solution, and that solution was zone blocking.

With zone blocking, all attackers work together to block defenders, rather than each attacker being responsible for blocking a single defender.

Depending on the offensive play called up, at least two linemen on each side of the field are working on their blocking scheme.

Some offensive linemen may still only have blocking responsibilities, again depending on the offensive play and defensive scheme used.

This generates many double-team blocks on the line of scrimmage.

This gives a nice early boost at the attack point to keep defensive linemen from getting loose in the backfield.

This is especially important in racing games.

double crew blocks

The first step in this example is the dual team blocks.

In our example, the offense has a quarterback and running back in the backfield, a quarterback in the middle, and a tight end on the right.

The defense consists of four defenders plus linebacker Sam who line up at the line of scrimmage.

In the middle, the pivot is responsible for blocking the nose tackle that is face down on him.

The tight end is responsible for taking out linebacker Sam.

The defender is responsible for picking up the defensive end on the left side of the field.

Guard and tackle on either side of center combine to form zone-blocking doubles teams.

On the left side of the line, they make a defensive double tackle. On the right side they will double the defense.

Understand the zone blocking scheme in football (6)

What you will see in this figure is that there is no defined blocking responsibility for linebackers Mike or Will.

You might think this is a bad design as it would allow linebackers to move freely just like they did with the man-blocking scheme.

But here comes the beauty of the zone locking scheme.

Second level blocks

The next step in the zone blocking scheme deals directly with blocking these two linebackers: Will and Mike in our example.

This is called the second layer of defense.

Responsibility for blocking these two players rests with the offensive tackles or offensive guards.

One of these players on each side of the field will break out of their initial block of two to reach the second tier and take Will or Mike respectively.

The player coming out of the team's opening double block depends on where the defender is set up and where the opening shot is going.

Again, the zone-blocking scheme starts with the offensive tackle and the guards uniting in a double-team block at the line of scrimmage, followed by one of those linemen stepping back to see a second row linebacker to block.

Understand the zone blocking scheme in football (7)

Now let's focus on the right side of the field to illustrate the example of which offensive lineman will charge to block linebacker Mike.

In this case, the defensive end shadows the outside shoulder of the right offensive tackle.

Where the defensive end goes and how the forwards mine it will determine which forward Mike blocks.

If the defensive end stays out (through C-Space), the offensive tackle will be on him while the offensive guard moves away to catch Mike.

Understand the zone blocking scheme in football (8)

If the defensive end goes in (through B-space) then the offensive guard will be on him while the offensive tackle goes out looking for Mike.

Understand the zone blocking scheme in football (9)

The zone-blocking scheme allows linemen to take a wait-to-block approach, allowing the game to be contested before determining who will block the linebacker on their side of the field.

zone lock key

In order for the zone locking scheme to work properly, attackers need to be aware of a few keys.

First, the spikers blocking the tandem doubles team must be hip to hip.

This closes gaps between attackers and prevents defenders from getting past them.

Second, attackers must keep their shoulders straight. So you can both successfully take off to the second level.

Third, linebackers need to keep an eye on the linebacker.

Losing sight of him for even a minute will delay your ability to catch him on that second level block.

This can lead to disaster.

Fourth, offensive linemen need to know who's staying at quarterback and who's retiring in order to get the linebacker job.

This takes some work and practice, but you can easily learn it over time.


The zone lock scheme is a great way to counteract defensive play that may be needed.

It offers attackers many advantages, no matter what you call the defensive game.

While a bit more complicated to teach and learn than the man-blocking scheme, it's not so difficult that it's difficult for younger players to learn.

The sooner you teach your players the zone blocking scheme and the more you practice it, the easier it will be for them to master it.

Understand the zone blocking scheme in football (10)

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