Commentary

WITH SO MANY 300-POUND BODIES COLLIDING IN SO LITTLE SPACE, IT CAN BE HARD TO TELL WHAT'S HAPPENING IN THE TRENCHES. LET US CLEAR THINGS UP.

Updated: July 10, 2012, 4:06 PM ET
By MIKE TANIER, FOOTBALL OUTSIDERS

MOST BLOCKS LOOK THE SAME TO the naked eye: Huge man runs into huge man, holes open, quarterbacks stay clean, chains move. But offensive linemen need to learn dozens of blocking types and techniques if they hope to succeed in the NFL. Don't know a cross block from a scoop block? Think the bucket step is a line dance? This glossary will help.

GENERAL TERMS

BUBBLE Area of turf between an uncovered offensive lineman and the linebacker assigned to a gap.

BUCKET STEP Lateral step taken before a scoop or reach block.

CHOPPY STEPS The ideal way for an offensive lineman to move: He takes short strides, keeps his legs moving and maintains strength in his thighs and calves. That way, he's always ready for contact.

COVERED/UNCOVERED If a defensive lineman's helmet is aligned anywhere between an offensive lineman's shoulders, that O-lineman is said to be covered. Otherwise, the O-lineman is uncovered and in great position to pull or trap block.

DOUBLE-TEAM When two blockers take on one defender. For best results, one blocker aims high (near the top of the D-lineman's numbers) while the other aims low (around the hips).

FALSE STEPS Fundamental footwork errors, like taking three steps instead of two when turning to pull, or stepping forward instead of slide-stepping in pass protection. False steps slow a lineman down or take him out of position.

FAN PROTECTION Pass protection in which all linemen are responsible for defenders to their outside shoulders, with backs taking care of any up-the-middle blitzers.

FINISH To block a defender until the whistle blows, even if the ballcarrier has made the open field or is on the opposite side of the field. Good finishers wear down their opponents.

FOUR HANDS, FOUR EYES A fundamental tenet of the zone-blocking scheme: On a double-team, both blockers should keep all four hands on their defender while keeping all four eyes on the linebackers attacking the gaps. That way, both blockers are at the ready to peel off the double-team to block one of those linebackers.

GAPS Space between any two linemen on the line of scrimmage. In offensive parlance, A-gaps are between the center and guards, B-gaps between the guards and tackles, C-gaps between the tackles and tight ends. On the other side of the ball, those defenders who line up head up on the blockers are designated with even numbers: 0 for center, 2 for guards, 4 for tackles. Those defenders who line up in the gaps are designated with odd numbers: 1 for A-gap, 3 for B-gap, 5 for C-gap. Now you know where the "3-technique tackle" goes.

LEVERAGE Ability to get lower than your opponent and keep your hands inside his. Lowest man usually wins most battles.

LIFT To get low, thrust upward on your defender and use his weight against him. A great way to maximize leverage.

LOOK TO THE SKY What an offensive lineman is supposed to do when initiating contact on a block. Looking up keeps the neck arched and the back fl at, helping leverage.

LUNGE To leave feet or thrust center of gravity forward while blocking. A great way to injure yourself-or your quarterback, once the defender tosses you to the turf.

MAN-BLOCKING SCHEME Blocking scheme in which each blocker is assigned to engage a specific defender.

PANCAKE To knock a defensive player flat on his back while blocking.

PULL To move laterally after the snap to block on the outside.

PULL STEP Maneuver used to get into position when pulling: After the snap, the blocker pushes off the ground with his hand, whips his elbow backward to turn his body, then steps back and points his back foot in the direction he's pulling. Must be done fast; defenders won't wait for a lineman to get set.

PUNCH To thrust your hands up-hard-into a defender's sternum, just below the shoulder pads. Stops forward motion.

SCAN PROTECTION Pass protection in which uncovered linemen must "scan" the field, looking for potential pass-rushers.

SEAL To control the edge of the line of scrimmage, preventing pursuit by defensive linemen or linebackers.

SLIDE PROTECTION Pass protection that is shifted to the left or right directly after the snap in anticipation of an outside rush.

SLIDE STEP A tackle's initial step in pass protection. When facing an edge-rusher, the blocker steps back with the outside foot at a 45-60 angle. But he must take care: Step too far, and the pass-rusher will beat him to the inside; not far enough, and the rusher will beat him to the outside.

THREE-POINT STANCE Presnap position for offensive linemen: Back flat, feet a bit more than shoulder width apart, one hand on the turf, one resting on the knee, toes pointed slightly inward. It's critical that the blocker doesn't put too much weight on his down hand, or he'll topple forward when making contact with a defender.

TWO-POINT STANCE Presnap position for an offensive lineman, typically used when in pass protection against an edge-rusher: knees fl exed, hands inside the thighs, back straight, the outside foot planted slightly behind the inside foot a bit wider than shoulder length.

ZONE-BLOCKING SCHEME Blocking scheme in which each blocker is assigned to block a specific area of the field. Blockers often work in tandem (see: zone block) to clear running lanes.

TYPES OF BLOCKS

BACKSIDE BLOCK Used on a running play to the far side of the field: An offensive lineman (usually a tackle) steps out in the direction of the play, attacks defender under his inside shoulder, sustains block and cuts off defender's pursuit. Done right, the runner will have wide cutback lanes.

CHIP BLOCK Typically executed by a running back: Before running a pass pattern, he throws a quick block against a pass-rusher. The chip block slows down the pass-rusher so an offensive lineman can take a better angle on him.

CHOP BLOCK Block directly to a defender's knees or to the backs of his thighs, knees or ankles. Often confused with a cut block, a legal block to the defender's hips. An illegal, dirty play, no matter what a Broncos lineman tells you.

COMBO BLOCK Used on a doubleteam: Lineman A slows down Defender A with a quick block before peeling off to attack Defender B, leaving Lineman B to sustain the initial block on Defender A.

CRACKBACK BLOCK Used by a tight end or a wideout on a running play: Coming out of his pass pattern, receiver turns toward middle of field and cuts off linebacker or safety in pursuit on second level. Goal is to aim between thigh and shoulder pads; anything else will draw a penalty.

CROSS BLOCK General term for trap and fold blocks, i.e., when one offensive lineman loops around another to engage a defender.

CUT BLOCK Used on a running play, usually against a linebacker: An O-lineman fires out of his stance very low, drives into front of his defender's hips and scrambles into him, often with one or both hands on the ground. Illegal when defender is engaged with another blocker.

CUTOFF BLOCK Used by a wide receiver on a running play: He runs a 12- to 15-yard pass route into the middle of the field, finds the deep safety and nails him. A good cutoff block can turn a 15-yard run into a 50-yard touchdown.

DOWN BLOCK Block by an offensive lineman in which he drives an interior defender laterally. The goal is to control the defender so that a linemate can cross, fold, pull or trap.

DRIVE BLOCK Power block in which a lineman plows into a defender straight on, ideally driving him backward out of the running hole. Blocker must stay low, take short steps, keep his hands inside the defender, aim for the numbers and keep his legs moving upon contact.

FOLD BLOCK Block that allows a lineman to use his quickness on an inside run: After the snap, Lineman A takes a drop step, loops behind Lineman B, then drives into his gap to block a linebacker. Meanwhile, Lineman B blocks the defender covering Lineman A.

KICK-OUT BLOCK Used on a running play: An interior lineman pulls to the outside and engages an edge defender, usually a cornerback or an outside linebacker. The blocker pins the defender toward the sideline so the running back can cut inside. Works well in tandem with a crackback block on sweeps.

LOG BLOCK Used on running play: An offensive lineman pulls along the line of scrimmage, then turns inside and cuts off first defender in pursuit.

REACH BLOCK Used on a running play: Instead of blocking the defender covering him, an offensive lineman engages a defender in a gap to his left or right by taking a drop step, moving laterally as if pulling, then cutting off the defender's pursuit into an outside gap. The reach defender while runner cuts inside block.

SCOOP BLOCK Used on a running play: An offensive lineman steps laterally and blocks a defender covering a linemate, "scooping" him so that the linemate can block elsewhere. Like a reach block, except driving defender back isn't necessary; blocker just needs to control defender and use his momentum to create a hole.

SCRAMBLE BLOCK Old-school block still seen near goal line: Blocker fires out low, aims for defender's upper hip or thigh and controls defender with his shoulder.

SECOND-LEVEL BLOCK Block on a linebacker, defensive back or any defender who isn't on the line of scrimmage at the start of a play.

SLIP BLOCK Combo block used in pass protection: Two blockers take on one lineman, with one of those blockers slipping off to a blitzing linebacker when necessary.

STALK BLOCK Used by a receiver: After running a pass route, he begins blocking his defender once that defender realizes it's a running play.

TRAP BLOCK Fake-out block: One lineman coaxes a defender across the line of scrimmage by pulling or pretending to pass protect. The other does a cross block, trapping coaxed defender while runner cuts inside block.

WEDGE BLOCK Triple-team maneuver: One blocker drives a defender while two other blockers push ballcarrier forward for extra power. Now rare but sometimes seen near goal line.

ZONE BLOCK Double-team block: One blocker peels off after initial contact with Defender A to engage Defender B while other blocker stays behind to finish off Defender A. Either blocker can disengage, depending on what gap or zone the defense is attacking.