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#1 Posted : Thursday, December 11, 2008 8:29:45 PM(UTC)
Part 1 described a basic technique employed in a ZBS.

Part 2 described a common technique, the "pin and pull" or "spread" for outside running.

Part 3 was a generalized bitch about personnel, mostly what would happen if scheme is abandoned.

This is a post mostly about the various techniques employed in the ZBS without play specificity.

I want to start with an often-used quote to describe the why behind it's use:

"One of the simplest reasons many teams have incorporated zone blocking in their offenses is that zone blocking rules do not change based on the defensive front. In a "man-block" system, blockers are paired with defenders according to certain rules to create a running lane, or "hole". If the defensive front changes, or if the defense stunts or blitzes, the blocking rules may change. This requires learning multiple rules for the same play. Zone blocking uses very consistent rules that do not change according to the defensive front."

Sure. See Part 2, the pin and pull.

SOME MORE TECHNIQUE TALK: (Mostly from Wikipedia with author interjection)

Using a running back out of the backfield, zone plays are categorized into three types... Inside zone (IZ), Outside Zone (OZ_ and Stretch. These describe the initial landmark of the ball carrier. (See the pin and pull stretch play example in part 2 for the "stretch" ball carrier "landmark")
For each type of zone there are many different blocking schemes available.

The covered/uncovered was discussed in part 1.

Another scheme asks the offensive linemen to imagine a "railroad track" parallel to the running back's path and block everything in their way. This could be a linebacker, but could also be a slanting defensive lineman from somewhere else.

Starting from either inside or outside, some plays will pair two offensive linemen on one defensive lineman and call for a fullback to block an otherwise unblocked defensive lineman on the outside in the direction the play is being run. This requires the offensive linemen to use a variety of line splits and step techniques. (see part 1 for step techniques)

Typically a counting system is used to eliminate unfavorable matchups that can be the result of an unusual defensive alignment. This is often used in conjunction with other schemes.

Zone concepts are also utilized in plays that use "reach blocking", "O blocking" or "speed blocking", where offensive linemen take paths around defensive linemen to momentarily obstruct them before releasing on a track. A "missed block" oftentimes is mis-characterized by a viewer or commentator...it was "schemed" that way in the first place.

Zone techniques are supplemented with a variey of audibles and calls to get even better matchups against certain defensive techniques and alignments, including double and triple options out of the shotgun formation.


Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the ZBS is the penchant to employ the so-called "cut block". Many linemen and teams are criticized for cut blocking the knees of defenders, sometimes away from the play. Cut blocks are illegal in the open field and when a defensive player is engaged by another offensive player. Legal cut blocks are supposed to be aimed at the opposing player's waist or hip. Although some consider the technique unsportsmanlike because of the risk of serious injury, defenders of the technique say that when applied correctly it is a very effective tactic. In fact, some defensive schemes call for defensive players to employ the technique in order to eliminate blockers so other defenders can make the tackle. It is somewhat telling that the Packers have stated in the past that they do not practice the technique in order to avoid injuries during practice.

Zone blocking frequently employs deception. For example, a play may be called in which blitzing defensive linemen and linebackers are permitted to rush into areas of the offensive backfield that are deemed unimportant in the play called by the offense. Meanwhile, the offensive linemen who vacated the unimportant area migrate to the point of attack, blocking "material" defensive players.

Misdirection plays like "Counters" or "Traps" (Think Washington Redskins, hogs and Riggo, here) can also be used in the ZBS. Counters work by misleading defenders away from the area of attack. These plays are typically called when defenses begin to over-pursue running plays by "reading" the feet of the linemen when the ball is snapped. Traps are used less frequently because a pulling lineman usually breaks the zone system. However, there are attempts made to integrate pulling linemen into zone schemes, especially with the rise of "read zone plays".

One of the many not- so- obvious collateral results of the ZBS is the role other players besides the linemen and tight end often play in a "Probable" running play. In a spread-attack alignment with a pass/run option, the primary responsibility of receivers is less to catch passes than to execute downfield blocks, springing the ball carrier and extending the run. Many ZBS plays of this nature require "hot reads" by the line, the quarterback, the running back(s) and the receivers...all to occur concurrently.

Simple, really.... NOT!!!!

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