Fat Camp: Offensive Line resources

With the placement of Ryan Clady onto IR and corresponding promotion of Chris Clark to starting left tackle, a lot of people are looking at offensive line play with newly interested eyes. I also wanted to share with you some of the sites and information that I’ve used or enjoyed - they’re good places to lurk and learn. Some folks are interested in learning enough to have it help them watch film - others might be inquisitive for other reasons.

Regardless, I think that you’ll learn a bit from this piece and it has several good links that you can peruse at your leisure if you have the interest.

A lot of people are still learning the game of football, and I’ve found that this is why many folks come to IAOFM. We believe that the average fan is a lot smarter than the league believes, and that they often want to learn more about the game than the general media provides. Like you, we’re also constantly learning.

Personally, I try to share whatever is ‘up’ during a season with you. Over the course of that, I’ve found that whether your thing is offense, defense, passing patterns, the run game, the secondary, or the trenches, a good dictionary of football terms is a useful tool to keep around. I’ve used this one several times. You are going to find that different parts of the country and different schools of thought on the game will use different terms for the same things. This dictionary makes a point to explain what’s being said when that happens - I like that.

Although often overlooked in favor of the better covered positions, offensive line blocking is a remarkably deep, complex, and technically precise art. Its basics are the drive block, reach block, scoop block, fold block, down block, cutoff block (which is sometimes called an alley block), and combination blocks (which are sometimes called tandem blocks). There are others was well. These are the building blocks of offensive line play, much as the various combinations of only four proteins make up the DNA of the human being.

For simple blocking terms, this is a good source and easier than many to understand in terms of the language they use. There is also a good overview of the blocks here. You should expect that approach to the material to be somewhat more technically dense, but it’s presented well enough to help anyone.  

Of course, there are other techniques. You’re also going to need to get your linemen - most commonly a guard or tackle, but I’ve seen a center doing it - using pulling and trapping techniques. I’ve mentioned this before, but Zane Beadles deserves all the attention he’s starting to get (as an alternate to the 2012 Pro Bowl) due in part to his excellent footwork. Whether he’s pulling, trapping, or going after a linebacker on a scoop block, his footwork is often impressive.

BTW, if you didn’t get through the above links down to ‘scoop blocks’, it happens when two linemen control a defensive lineman together, then one of the offensive linemen leaves to attack a linebacker or safety on the second level.

Beadles is also a pleasure to watch when he works in combination blocks with the center. One of the things I’ve noticed with him is how often he’s one of the first guys to join the ballcarrier in the end zone when Denver scores. No matter what the play is, run or pass, he has very quick feet and a nose for the end zone.

Chris Brown’s Smart Football is constantly interesting. In this particular piece he talks about Bill Walsh’s view of the interaction of play action and the running game. He sees a pulling guard as essential to achieving success in that, and for the Broncos, Peyton Manning is at his best in play action, and Beadles provides that needed skill. Louis Vasquez is a brilliant rock in pass protection, but every team also needs that pulling guard. The Broncos are fortunate to have both.

Here's another source for good articles on offensive line play, from retired center LeCharles Bentley - the posts are often interesting, and frequently valuable. Once you get a few terms under your belt, the jargon isn’t hard to pick up. I know that our minds often rebel when they have to learn some new words, but these aren’t tough to catch onto. There’s also angle blocking to consider, which the Broncos employ. There’s a basic video on the concept here and a nice clarification of how it works here. I like the series of diagrams, breaking out what will happen in a step-by-step approach.  

I hope this helps give you a better overview of life in the trenches. Right now, I wanted you to have the resources to learn about and understand this position in a way that you might not have in the past. With Clark taking over at LT, knowing more about the position’s demands should be helpful. Over time, I hope to cover the defensive linemen’s responses to how the offense moves, as well.


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