Defeating Blocks on the Defensive Line

6 Apr

by Joe
Football Defense Report

The Defensive Line is not just about getting off the ball first. If all we ever taught was that, we would constantly be getting up field. Trap blocks would destroy us. Defensive Linemen have to recognize the action of their Offensive Line key and react accordingly.

In an even front, a 3-Technique lineman, aligned on the outside shade of the Offensive Guard, will face the following blocks:

1.Base Block
2.Zone To
3.Zone Away
5.Double Team
6.Pass Set
7.Pull Inside/Down Block
8.Pull Outside

There are a few other things he could see, but knowing how he needs to react to teach of these blocks will give him all of the tools he needs to be successful.

After we identify how we want the 3-Tech to react to each of those blocks, we need to find a way to shave down the teaching so that he does not actually have 8 things to do. In fact, when we install a defense we want to keep the number of techniques any player needs to use to about 5 techniques.

Get Off and Strike 

The 3-tech has to get off the ball in a hurry. We tilt him slightly so he can see the ball better. Normal alignment is with his nose on the armpit of the Guard. In passing situations he would loosen up to the tip of the shoulder pad, while against power running teams he tightens up to the V of the neck.

We teach stepping with the hips, rather than a 6-inch power step. This means on the snap he is trying to push the ground away with his feet. The step happens naturally as the hips drive forward.

He strikes his aiming point, framing the outside number. The inside hand strikes the middle of the breast plate and the outside hand controls the outside of the shoulder pad.

As the hips uncoil and the hands extend, he creates separation from the Offensive Lineman. He has to stay low and get leverage on the blocker. As all of this happens, he has to read the block he is getting. It all happens within a split second of the snap, so he’ll need a million reps!

Base Block

The first block we have to handle is a base block by the Offensive Guard. This is a one on one block where the Guard is trying to drive out the 3-tech and open up the A-Gap.

To defeat a base block, the 3-tech tries to drive the Guard back where he came from on his initial steps. Once he gets extension and reads the base block, he needs to get rid of the blocker.

To get rid of the blocker, we primarily work a rip move. With full extension, he pulls down on the outside pad with the outside hand, opens up his hips to the blocker, and rips his inside hand through hip of the OG. The goal is to get his hip past the hip of the blocker, and square himself up to make a play.

Zone To

On a zone block to him, the blocker feels a flat step by the Guard, trying to drive through his outside number. The key here is to not back door the zone, but to keep leverage and show color in the B-gap he is responsible for.

To do this, we want to work the hips to the gap. As long as his hips are in the gap, the defender has control of the gap. His head position is meaningless! As long as he is showing color in the gap, the ball carrier will have to cut back.

Fighting the zone to this way will also keep him from being overtaken by the center and letting the Guard climb on an Outside Zone.

Once he has his hips in position, the 3-Tech uses the same escape move to get off and control his gap, and then work to the ball. Again, if we can get our hips past the hips of the OG, we can work the LOS and help make the tackle elsewhere.

Zone Away

On a zone block away, the Guard is going to be driving through the inside number, trying to stop the charge of the DT so that the Tackle can overtake him.

Our goal is to prevent any of that from happening. We have the opportunity on the Zone Away to take up two defenders and let the Linebacker run free. To do this, we’re going to shoot our hands and latch on to the covered blocker. When he feels the backside Tackle pressure into him, he will work his hips into him.

Working his hips into the heat of the backside Tackle keeps the Tackle from overtaking. At the same time, the Guard can’t climb to the second level because we have control of him. The Linebacker is able to run free to stuff the zone.


We’ll take on the reach block the same way we take on the Zone To. There is no need to teach anything different. Get your hips into the hole and don’t allow the reach blocker to overtake your outside shoulder pad. Don’t make this stuff more complicated than it is!

I have played with ideas about back-dooring the reach. It is simple for the Linebacker to read the door closing so that he can scrape over. To do this, we are going to need a rule – something along the lines of 3 steps down the line, then back door it. You may want to work this if you see a lot of reach blocks.

Double Team

Defeating the Double Team will be a combination of defeating the base block and the zone away. Attack the Guard just like a base block, and then as you feel the back side double coming in, hip into it.

We would rather not give up. Use the hips to keep from getting a two-man drive on the 3-tech. This puts him in position to split the double. Then he can rip off and run to make the play. As long as the hips are working, he should not be giving up ground – since the double team blockers are not in a position to drive him.

Pass Set

Any retreat by the OG will be read as a pass set. The lineman gets into his pass rush lane and starts working to defeat the blocker.

Pull Inside/Down Block

On a pull inside or a down block, we play it the same. This is the block-down, step-down rule. When the blocker goes inside, the aiming point leaves us, but we still follow it.

Any block away is treated as if it is run away. He gets screaming straight down the Line of Scrimmage, expecting someone to come back to him. On a down block, he would be the pulling Guard for trap. On an inside trap, it would be the center blocking back.

In either case, he has to attack it with a lot of force and blow it up. We’ll wrong arm the trap block to force the run to bounce. We’ll crush the center back where he came from on the back block, constricting the opposite A-gap.

Pull Outside

Plain and simple, shouldn’t happen. If we’re doing a good job of getting off the ball, that pulling guard should be knocked on his hind parts when he tries this. We’re going to take a down block from the OT, but if the 3-Tech is following his strike point he should be destroying the play.

On paper this one is tough, because of the angle of the OT. The reality is, if he can knock the Guard off his path and then take the block of the OT without giving much ground, we are getting another 2-for-1. The Linebacker or DE should be free to make the play.

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