How To Block In Football (Complete Guide)

Written By: Chris Haddad
Updated: April 26, 2024

Blocking in football is one of the most important techniques a player can learn. A well-placed block can open holes for running backs and protect quarterbacks from getting sacked. The teams who often block the best will win the game.

In this article, we’ll show you everything you need to know about blocking, and by the end, you’ll be an expert in blocking fundamentals.

Introduction To Blocking In Football

Blocking is one of the hardest things to do in football because of how fundamental the process is. The hand placement, approach, footwork, and drive after contact must be in line.

One wrong or false step could cause the defensive player to slip your block and ruin the play.

This is why coaches spend so much time on blocking. While blocking doesn’t yield stats, it’s important to the offense’s overall success.

Basics Of Blocking

The types of blocks per position will change, but the overall fundamentals of blocking will remain the same no matter which position.

Approach

The approach is one of the most important aspects of blocking. Whether it’s an offensive lineman blocking a defensive lineman or a linebacker, the footwork leading up the block is the difference between a successful and missed block.

From an offensive lineman perspective, the lineman should have a wide base on contact. This way, the defensive player can’t shed the offensive lineman with an easy swim or rip move.

If the offensive lineman’s feet are too close together, they don’t have a base to balance themselves on and will often be thrown to the ground.

When approaching a defender, maintain a wide base before contact.

Contact

Next is the contact phase, which we also call “fitting up” a defender. This is where the offensive lineman actually puts hands on the defensive player.

It’s important to know the rules of what’s holding a penalty and what’s not.

Offensive players can legally grab the defender’s chest plate. Most offensive line coaches actually encourage this.

Offensive linemen get in trouble with holding calls when the defender moves, and they pull the defensive player’s shirt or chest plate back to them, restricting them from making a play. This will always be called a holding penalty.

To avoid being called for holding, the offensive linemen must move their feet with the defender while maintaining a grasp of the chest plate on the shoulder pads.

This is why the approach of having a wide base is so important. This way, they can move horizontally without a holding penalty or any other illegal blocks above the waist penalties.

Drive

Once the offensive lineman has secured the chest plate with a wide base, the next phase is the drive phase.

This requires the offensive lineman to slowly narrow their base and drive the player up the field. This is only recommended on run plays, and the defensive player will often take you to where the ball is going.

A successful block often results in a “pancake” block, in which the offensive player successfully drives the defensive player to the ground. Every offensive lineman strives for this type of block.

Types Of Run Blocks

There are many types of blocks in football that offensive linemen will make to successfully get their running back free into the open field. Let’s learn!

Gap Block

Gap block
Focus On The Left Guard

A gap block, or angle drive block, is common in gap scheme plays.

This block requires the offensive lineman to use his leverage and angles to successfully drive the player away from the play.

To execute a gap block, the players should take a 45-degree step toward their target, anticipating their movement going forward. From here, put your head to the opponent’s earhole. This is important because if the defensive player slants across the offensive lineman and their head is too far in front, they will get beat.

Fit the hands on the front and side of the shoulder pads and drive. This will successfully get the defensive player out of the way and render them useless to make a play.

Zone Double Team

zone double team
Focus On The Right Guard And Right Tackle

Double team blocks are important for both gap schemes (like power) and inside zone plays.

To execute a proper double-team block, both offensive linemen should step toward their target, leaving no space between their hips and knees. Any space between the two linemen will result in the defensive lineman splitting the double team.

Coach Dante Scarnecchia, formally of the New England Patriots did a great job of explaining this concept in our video here:

Once the first step has been taken, it’s important that both offensive lineman get underneath the pads of the defensive lineman. This will allow them to vertically displace the defensive player and drive them backward.

Ideally, you want your offensive linemen to work as one force moving together.

Reach Block

Reach block
Focus On The Left Tackle

Reach blocks are commonly done in the outside zone scheme.

These blocks require a quick first step from the offensive lineman to pin the defensive player to the inside. This block is common for teams who try to get to the ball to the perimeter.

Outside is a great scheme because it requires more speed and quickness than power. It allows smaller guards and tackles a chance against bigger defensive linemen.

Hinge Block

Hinge block

Hinge blocks are common on the backside of run plays, such as inside zone. The point of a hinge block is to shield the defensive player from spiking into the inside gap.

For example, if the ball is being run to the right side, the last thing we want is for a backside defender to make a play by slanting toward the play.

A hinge block requires a hard inside step to prevent penetration, followed by slightly turning your body to the defender to ensure they can’t get to the inside leverage on you. This block is useful for cutting off angles and ensuring no backfield penetration.

Cut Block

Cut block in football

The cut block has been ruled illegal in most leagues in the open field, but it can be done when the ball is snapped.

The cut block occurs when an offensive player lunges at the legs of a defensive player in hopes of cutting them to the ground. This block effectively neutralizes bigger players to prevent them from putting their hands in the air against the offense’s quick-game passing attack.

Pass Blocks

Pass blocking can be divided into the types of sets the offensive line takes. While it may seem that the offensive lineman is just colliding with the defensive lineman to prevent him from getting to the quarterback, much more goes into it.

Below, we’ll detail 3 different types of sets that offensive linemen use to cut off angles from defensive players.

Jump Set

Jump set

A jump set occurs when the offensive tackle faces a speed rusher off the edge. When the ball is snapped, the offensive lineman takes a small hop step (also known as a jump set) to neutralize the leverage the defensive tackle or defensive end may have.

This type of set is common when an offensive guard is facing a 3 technique or an offensive tackle is facing a wide 9 technique.

45-Degree Set

45- Degree set

A 45-degree set is the most commonly taught pass block set because of its simplicity. From the tackle position, the offensive tackle should always relate their outside leg to the midline of the defensive tackle.

This means when they set at a 45-degree, they should always maintain inside leverage so the defensive end can’t go up and under them.

If the defensive end chooses to go outside, they will use the defensive end’s leverage and ride them to the outside.

Vertical Set

Vertical Set
Focus On The Offensive Tackle On The Left (Offense’s Right)

Last is the vertical set. This set is used for offensive tackles to form the pocket and cut-off angles from the defensive end or blitzing linebacker.

The first step of the vertical set is 180 degrees. The offensive lineman should then get their shoulder square to the oncoming rusher. They will be susceptible to the bull rush, but if they play with a low pad level, they can maintain any force from the defensive player.

Keep Learning

If you want to learn more about blocking and see detailed video examples of these blocks, check out our Offensive Line University course. Inside this course, you’ll also find drills and coaching examples on executing the perfect block.

Offensive line university

Inside, it has everything you need to become an efficient blocking offensive lineman.

If you have any questions, leave them in the comment section below, and we’ll answer them.

About the author 

Chris Haddad

Chris Haddad is the founder of vIQtory Sports & high school coach for over 12+ years. He has been featured as an authority on Hudl, Bleacher Report and countless other football-centric platforms. Chris continues to study and provide valuable content for those looking to learn more about the game of football.

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