As the passing game becomes more complex, quarterbacks become more important to the game. Consequently, the people who protect the quarterback have also become vital to success.
Not surprisingly, three of the top four picks in the 2013 NFL Draft were offensive tackles. In games, tackles are left on an island, tasked with preventing a better athlete from getting past the line and into open space. They can accomplish this only with superior technique.
Bottom line, if you can protect the quarterback, you will find a place on the field.
The main responsibility of an offensive tackle is to set the edge of the pocket. They often face the most athletic pass rusher on the opposing team, but they have the advantage of being further away from the quarterback. A running back who pass blocks deep in the backfield near the quarterback has to be concerned with a bull rush taking him back into the quarterback's lap. A tackle does not need to worry about that as much.
Whether you play from a two- or three-point stance, your weight should be balanced. Leaning back on your heels may make you quicker at the snap, but it also tips off the defense that a pass is coming. At the snap, push off your inside foot and step back with your outside foot. The further outside your opponent is aligned, the further you need to kick your outside foot back.
Your weight should always be primarily over your inside foot to protect against an inside rush. You cannot allow the defender to beat you inside, because that's the fastest route to the passer.
Keep your hands up, no lower than your sternum, with your thumbs pointed up. If the rusher tries to cross your face and take an inside route, transition to a run block. Your inside foot and hand should be heavy, and you should try to drive the rusher backward. If you try to force him inside rather than back, he will penetrate the pocket and may cause your quarterback to scramble.
Your shoulders should be parallel to the line of scrimmage. Turn them only as a last resort. As your opponent rushes, continue to kick your outside leg back and slide backward, keeping yourself between the rusher and the passer. When your opponent gets close, make a short, explosive punch into his breastplate while keeping your thumbs up, and grasp his breastplate tightly. Remember, it's not holding if your hands are inside the pass rusher's shoulders.
Back and Knees
Keep your back straight and knees bent. A proper knee bend will keep you strong against a bull rush, and a straight back will prevent you from leaning too far forward and being easily beaten by a pass rush move. Make contact with your head only as a last resort if you are being driven into the backfield.
Offensive linemen usually have an athletic disadvantage, but proper technique allows them to succeed regardless of their opponent's speed and strength.
If you're an offensive lineman who wants to get better this summer, check out these articles:
- 4-Week Lineman Training Program
- Football Summer Training Guide 2013: Offensive and Defensive Linemen
- 2 Essential Workout Tips for Offensive Linemen
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