Thursday, June 5, 2014

Playbook: Zone Blocking Scheme

The zone blocking scheme (ZBS) is a staple rushing concept used by every NFL team.  At it's core, the ZBS is predicated on the offensive lineman moving in unison toward the playside (ball carrier's target) and blocking "areas" rather than men or gaps.  A good zone-blocking offensive lineman can give up a bit of strength, but he needs to be able to move laterally, work with leverage, and have a very good understanding of his responsibilities.

Inside Zone

Inside zone (also called "tight zone") is a between-the-tackles run call where the running back aims for the outside hip of the playside guard. The linemen work in unison to block under their guidelines, which ask:

Is there a player on the line-of-scrimmage in front of me or to either shoulder?  In other words, am I "covered"?
  • If Yes: Zone with backside lineman, work to scoop to the second (linebacker) level.  If backside lineman is covered, drive block.
  • If No: Zone with playside lineman, work to scoop to the second level.
LT Monroe: Uncovered
LG Osemele: Covered
C Gradkowski: Covered
RG Yanda: Covered
RT Oher: Uncovered
TE Dickson: Covered

All covered lineman aim for the outside number of their defender.  When "zone scooping" (i.e. double-teaming), one of the lineman needs to reach the linebacker level.  This is determined after the snap when both players read the extent to which the defender is crashing playside.

On the backside, some coaches teach lineman to cut-block (block below the knees) the defensive lineman to open up cutback lanes.  The backside tight end has no "combo" help, he needs to execute a solo "reach" block (i.e. pin the defender to the backside).

With zone blocking, there's a predetermined hole that the running back will aim for, but he will read the leverage of the playside defenders before selecting a crease.  He will "press the hole" along his original trajectory and either cut-and-go or cut-back to the backside if the defenders over-pursue.

Outside Zone

The outside zone (also called "wide zone") is a variant of the inside zone where the aiming point is the outside hip of the playside tackle.


The blocking guidelines for the offensive lineman are largely the same. The difference is in the aiming point for the "reaching" (or covered) lineman.  In outside zone, they will step towards the outside arm-pit of their assigned defender with a more defined goal of "hooking" that player, or pinning him to the backside. This provides the running back with a larger opportunity to get to the "edge" (sideline) versus defenders who are either playing for a cut-back or expecting the inside zone play call.

The backside tight end here is blocking an outside linebacker aligned to the backside.  The block is therefore a "hinge" where playside lateral steps are unnecessary, simply wall off the man from hawking down the play from behind.


Outside References

1) Run Blocking along the Offensive Line, Part 1
2) The Seahawks' Run Game: Understanding the Zone Blocking Scheme
3) Alex Gibbs Denver Broncos (Terrell Davis) Outside Zone Cut-Ups and Explanation
4) Football 201: Understanding the Zone Blocking Scheme 
5) The Outside Zone Presentation by Bill Montjoy
6) Bill Montjoy on Outside Zone technique
7) Blocking Fundamentals: Five Basic Blocks
8) The Mother Lode of Zone Running Game Resources
9) Alex Gibbs on the Outside Zone play
10) Teaching the Steps of Inside and Outside Zone
11) Zone Blocking Stacks
12) NFL 101: Introducing the Zone Running Game 
13) Ravens Zone Blocking Scheme: What is it and what's wrong? 
14) Zone Blocking Part 1: Philosophy and Concepts 
15) Zone Blocking Part 2: Footwork, Blocking Schemes
16) Effective Zone Blocking Techniques 
17) Implementing the Zone Running Game: The Stretch Play
18) Defiance College Coaching Clinic: The Zone Running Game
19) Blocking the Modern Man/Zone Run Game 
20) Bill Montjoy on Run and Pass Blocking
21) Inside Zone Concept
23) Five Basic Blocks
24) Inside Zone Technique
25) Alex Gibbs on the Inside Zone
26) Inside Zone Blocking Tutorial
27) Inside Zone Fundamentals 
28) Detroit Lions All-22: Breaking down the Inside Zone 
29) The Middle Zone and Outside Zone Study 
30) North Outside Zone 2012
31) Optimal Ways to Run Zone Schemes - Part 1: IZ to the 1 technique; OZ to the 3