By Mike Kuchar
Senior Research Manager
While many of the techniques in the previous two cases can be applied when blocking stagnant or stationary targets, the greater issue in pass protection is coaching players on how to defend movement, particularly at the first level.
This section is devoted to the techniques and drill work associated with defending E/T and T/E games, zone pressures and man pressures in pass protection. We researched not only how offensive line coaches are teaching their players to identify pressure, but more importantly, how to block it when it does come. Before we delve into the techniques these coaches use and the drill work that corresponds with it, a brief background on who our contributors are:
The Contributors (in alphabetical order):
- Chennis Berry (CB), Offensive Line Coach, Southern University (8 sacks allowed in 2014, 4th in FCS).
- Brian Callahan (BC), Offensive Line Coach, Western Michigan University,
- Vin Giacalone (VG), Offensive Line Coach, Valparaiso University (5 sacks allowed in 2014, 1st in FCS).
- Herb Hand (HH), Offensive Line Coach, Penn State University.
- Art Kehoe (AK), Offensive Line Coach, the University of Miami (allowed 1.6 sacks per game in 2014).
- Brandon Jones (BJ), former Offensive Line Coach at East Carolina University (371 passing yards per game in 2014, 3rd in FBS), currently at Cal Berkeley.
- Jonathan Leibel (JL), Offensive Line Coach, Central Connecticut State University (11 sacks allowed in 2014, 10th in FCS).
- Cameron Norcross (CN), Offensive Line Coach, Fresno State University.
- Ryan Stancheck (RS), Offensive Line Coach, Alcorn State University (7 sacks allowed in 2014, 3rd in FCS).
- John Strollo (JS), Offensive Line Coach, Ball State University (13 sacks allowed in 2014, 12th in FBS).
We started by asking our contributors two questions. Their replies are marked with their initials below:
MK: What are some pressure “tells” you work with your offensive linemen in recognizing?
BJ: “We talk about blitz demeanor more than anything. We don’t use a vertical set to the man side. We read the linebackers blitz demeanor. If he is heavy on his toes and he’s hugged up we will make sure we protect the inside. We will get a lot of Bluff fronts where teams will line up in two 3-techniques. We want to get big-on-big if they are mugged up, our running back has to earn his keep. So they will slide to the Mike. We used to try to gap it and put the back on the DE, but instead we did it another way. My rules for the tackles are if the defensive end spies (drops), your eyes have to go outside in case they bring a corner or outside backer. If all else clears, we come back inside and body presence and find work. They used to mug him up and drop him because you didn’t want the running back on the backer.”
RS: “Much of it is by game plan. We will know before we play them if they are either a back blitz team, a boundary blitz team or a field blitz team percentage wise. I put it on the tackle, but this year I had a smart center. We read safeties, one high vs. two high. If that safety is rolling down we have to be aware of it. If we have two receivers out there and three defenders we need to know something is coming there. We can change pressure if it shows late, but it’s on the quarterback. Six-man protection is harder to change because you already have your wall side (slide side). We will set the wall side to the side of the pressure. A shade technique is a big indicator for us as well. If he’s been a 2i-technique and he lines up in a shade, then we need to be aware of it to cross face. If a 5-technique is always loose and then he lines up as a tight 4-technique, than that’s something we need to be aware of. Anytime you have a standup, you need to be aware of it. You want your wall to be there. We will often get teams mugging the center, where the backers walk up on the line of scrimmage then bail out. We would have to make a man call in this situation and often times you get one-on-one blocking. It’s a three down look but it’s Bear. Now you have to man it up. It’s hard because you’re man against a player running a 4.6 forty. Those linebackers walk up.”
BC: “Many times teams they will either give it away or come from a distance which will allow us to react back to it. The secondary players will try to hold to see our indicator but it’s our job to make sure we’re not telegraphing our protections.
The quarterback will handle this most of the time, but I do think linemen should know it. Teams that run fire zone pressures give the offense some certain indicators. The first hint is the alignment of the Mike linebacker who widens to an almost a 5-technique stack position when pressure is coming from his side. The 3-technique could be wider than normal and, in some cases, his stance reverses. Instead of having his ball hand on the ground, his outside hand is down to aid his outside movement. We try to look at all of that.”