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View Full Version : Difference Between Kubiak and Pendry Zone Blocking Scheme


bdiddy
05-01-2006, 09:24 PM
The main difference between Joe Pendry's and Kubiak/Alex Gibbs' zone blocking scheme is the cut block. Pendry refused to use or teach the cut block. Anyone who watches Denver or Atlanta knows that these two teams use the cut block regularly.

The zone scheme is designed to create 3 creases on any given play. The key to two of these creases is the cut block on the back side of the play. This involves the so called "cut back" crease, as well as the "in-line" or up-the-middle crease.

Pendry essentially took two of the necessary options away on every running play making the scheme much more predictable and easier to block against.

What is really interesting is that our running attack actually was fairly effective considering the lack of the proper use of the zone blocking scheme. I think we could be a VERY good running team next year.

bdiddy
05-01-2006, 10:15 PM
Very good article at http://www.footballoutsiders.com/2005/03/31/ramblings/stat-analysis/2484/

As TMQ often says, Denver’s helmets should have a label that says "Insert running back, gain 1000 yards". So many Denver running backs have been accused of benefiting from "the Denver system" that we thought it would be a good idea to see what correlation might exist between the Denver "one-cut" zone-blocking scheme and overall running back success.

To gauge that we needed to trawl the archives for running backs that have gone from one system to the other. Unfortunately, this isn’t as easy as it sounds.

Denver running backs seem to remain Denver running backs for life — possibly because they have a nasty habit of suffering devastating injuries while a Bronco. Terrell Davis, Mike Anderson, Olandis Gary, Reuben Droughns, Quentin Griffin, and Tatum Bell have had almost all of their career carries as Broncos. The only player in recent memory that has gone from Denver to another team and achieved significant carries in both locations is Clinton Portis.

However, as luck would have it, some teams have recently transitioned to a zone-blocking scheme. Houston hired Joe Pendry as offensive line coach and installed a zone-blocking scheme for Domanick Davis between 2003 and 2004. Atlanta also saw a similar transition, this time by bringing in the godfather of the zone blocking scheme, Alex Gibbs, whom many a defensive player can thank for a career or season ending lower leg injury.

So this gives us four players to work with: Clinton Portis (Denver and Washington); TJ Duckett and Warrick Dunn (Atlanta); and Domanick Davis (Houston).

ZONE BLOCKING
For those of you unfamiliar with the Denver offensive line scheme, they use a technique known as "zone blocking". In a "man" or "drive" blocking scheme the lineman is responsible for an individual, and the play is designed for a running back to hit a particular gap. The zone blocking scheme, on the other hand, has a lineman blocking an area instead of a designated defensive player. If multiple linemen are blocking an area than one can break off and block into the second level.

The offensive line typically moves as a unit laterally, and the result of their blocks should create some natural seams or gaps in the defensive formation. The running back is responsible for finding a hole, making a cut, and then running upfield. One of the key tenets of the Denver system is that the running back takes what he can get — he should never dance around waiting for a hole to open. He needs to be agile, authoritative, and possess good instincts. Nothing fancy, just try to gain positive yardage.

A final element of the zone blocking scheme is the use of the much hated cut block to seal off backside pursuit. This means that any linemen on the backside of the play cut block defensive players in front of them, which drops the defensive players to the turf and, oddly enough, opens up holes for the running back. Note that the cut block is legal in this case, as long as the offensive lineman isn’t hitting the defender from behind and as long as he doesn’t roll up on his legs. But hitting him below the knees near the line of scrimmage is fair game, as much as the NFLPA doesn’t want it to be.

Obviously getting defenders on the ground is one benefit of the cut block, but an intangible benefit is that defenders start worrying about their knees and ankles. They lose a bit of their aggression and speed since they’re paranoid that some lineman is going to creep up on them and take out their legs. This has the benefit of slowing down the entire defense.

For the record, Joe Pendry claims that his zone blocking scheme doesn’t rely on cut blocks. Given Davis’s performance, he might want to reconsider that stance.

CONFOUNDING VARIABLES
Before we start looking at the data, let’s go ahead and establish up front that nothing we’ve discovered is conclusive. We’re dealing with very limited sample data and a huge number of confounding variables. Portis had to deal with moving to a run-heavy offense with a passing game as threatening as a sleeping infant. In addition, Washington’s starting right tackle (Jon Jansen) was lost at the start of the season. And, finally, Portis casually mentioned that he had been suffering from a shoulder injury he didn’t want to "bother" the trainers about during the season.

While Atlanta managed to keep its personnel relatively intact, they turned over their entire coaching staff and installed brand new offensive and defensive schemes. In addition Dunn and Duckett flip flopped roles as primary ball carrier — in 2003 Duckett was the workhorse but in 2004 that title moved to, well, Mike Vick, but for the sake of this article, we’ll just note that Dunn had more carries than Duckett in 2004, a reversal from 2003.

One final note before we get to the analysis: we’re not trying to analyze effectiveness (a la DPAR, DVOA, or Success Rate), we’re instead trying to get a feel of the "nature" of their carries. Are they getting stuffed more often? Are they breaking off fewer or more long runs? Standard metrics such as yards/carry or standard deviation have a hard time telling us about the style of a runner, but an analysis of the distribution of their runs gives us a pretty good idea.

THE ANALYSIS
We took the running play information from 2003 and 2004 for Davis, Portis, Dunn, and Duckett and sorted the runs into buckets. These buckets were:

0 or fewer yards ("stuffs")
1-3 yards ("short runs")
4-9 yards ("good runs")
10+ yards ("long runs")
Discounting situational success, the first two buckets are "bad" runs and the second two buckets are "good" runs. We then graphed the results for each back comparing the frequency of runs within each category between zone and man blocking schemes. The results were inconsistent but still interesting.

Now, without looking at any real numbers, I think the graphs tell us a lot about each runner. Let’s take a look at TJ Duckett first:



Duckett clearly improved with the zone running scheme. In fact, that he had more runs for 4-9 yards than for 1-3 yards is impressive. In 2004 he almost halved the number of stuffs he suffered, he had a far greater percentage of "good" runs, but his 10+ yard frequency stayed about the same.

In other words, he isn’t a big play back, but in the zone scheme he was a lot more dependable for getting good, solid carries. Basically that distribution is exactly what you want from most running backs — get me at least 4 yards over half the time. It is not a coincidence that he has the second best RB Success Rate of backs in 2004 (up from #20 in 2003). (RB Success Rate explained here.)

Of course, other factors are at play as well — he wasn’t asked to carry as much and it he was used very differently. In 2003 over 65% of his carries were on 1st down, whereas in 2004 less than 50% of his carries were on 1st down.

Then we have his teammate, Warrick Dunn, who went through his own changes:



The graph basically says "In 2004, Dunn was far more likely to get you positive yardage, but less likely to get you GOOD positive yardage".

Davis, on the other hand, isn’t as cut and dry as expected:



The media have gone on and on about his lower yards/carry this year vs. last year (3.9 vs. 4.3). But the graph indicates that he was more consistent in the zone blocking scheme, i.e. a greater proportion of his runs were between the extremes of "stuffed" and "long run", which means he was stuffed less but also had fewer long runs. The numbers bear this out — in the zone blocking scheme he had 73.3% of his runs between 1 and 9 yards, but in the man blocking scheme only 64% of his runs were in that range. Visually this is obvious, as is the fact that he had more stuffs and long runs.

It is possible that the lack of cut-blocking on the backside prevented Davis from breaking out past the 3 yard area and grabbing large chunks of ground.

Now compare this with Portis:



The graph there, again, clearly shows the trend difference — there’s a crossover between the "bad" region and the "good" region. In other words, in the man blocking scheme he tended to have more "bad" runs and fewer "good" runs than in the zone blocking scheme. He ran more often for more yards in the zone scheme, however it should be mentioned that Joe Bugel and Joe Gibbs recognized this near the end of the 2004 season and supposedly incorporated more zone blocking type plays, however looking at the overall game summaries I don’t immediately see a difference.

SUMMARY
With such limited data and with so many confounding variables we can’t really draw any strong conclusions about man vs. zone blocking. But there are some interesting observations to be had.

First, the data seems to indicate that odds of getting stuffed drop with a zone scheme. This makes sense, since in a zone one-cut scheme the running back chooses the hole instead of sticking with the play’s pre-selected gap.

Second, there seems to be no correlation between scheme and the ability to rip off long runs. Davis and Portis had more long runs with zone blocking; Duckett was the same; and Dunn had more in a man scheme.

Third, it is possible that Davis might have had a better year if Pendry had used cut-blocking to Davis’s advantage — his distribution of runs is similar between the two years with the exception of his lack of long runs.

The "Denver system" isn’t a magical pill that a team can swallow to generate 1500 yard rushers with consistency, but obviously it has been successful for running backs in Denver. One reason it has not been widely adopted is time: it takes time to teach, time to master, and time to get the smaller, more agile offensive linemen that the system requires. If you take zone blocking and try to implement it with 340 pound behemoths, you will probably fail, and for better or for worse, 340 pound behemoths are what you’ll find on a typical offensive line in the NFL.

Mr. White
05-01-2006, 10:27 PM
Man, who do you expect to read this? It doesn't say nothing about Reggie Bush!

jk...enjoyable read

Texans_Chick
05-01-2006, 10:37 PM
One reason it has not been widely adopted is time: it takes time to teach, time to master, and time to get the smaller, more agile offensive linemen that the system requires. If you take zone blocking and try to implement it with 340 pound behemoths, you will probably fail, and for better or for worse, 340 pound behemoths are what you’ll find on a typical offensive line in the NFL.

This is worth remembering next season.

infantrycak
05-01-2006, 11:06 PM
If you take zone blocking and try to implement it with 340 pound behemoths, you will probably fail, and for better or for worse, 340 pound behemoths are what you’ll find on a typical offensive line in the NFL.

People should remember, with every rule (except this one) there is an exception. Denver has a 338 lb RT who also happens to be their only high draft pick on the OL. Clearly the gurus of zone blocking have more considerations than size alone in implementing their system--see also, Charles Spencer.

texasguy346
05-02-2006, 03:57 AM
I think one of the keys of the ZBS is to have a lineman who's not simply atheletic, but who has quick feet. Quick feet isn't something that's only true of smaller lineman, and you can see with guys like Spencer and Foster that big guys can have quick feet too.

TwinSisters
05-02-2006, 05:19 AM
The "Denver system" isn’t a magical pill that a team can swallow to generate 1500 yard rushers with consistency, but obviously it has been successful for running backs in Denver. One reason it has not been widely adopted is time: it takes time to teach, time to master, and time to get the smaller, more agile offensive linemen that the system requires.

With this in mind, you might want to see the instant replay on Pendry's problems and the cut-block. Houston was ravaged by injuries to their line, that fact might have some impact on where the "time to teach, time to master" part of the equation factors in ( more so then the cut-block ).

I suspect that you do not see 32 teams running a zone blocking front, because of that high 'teach' time factor. The risk of the sled breaking a part during regular season due to injuries is higher. With a zone blocking front it is harder to maintain effectiveness when you have to plug 2nd and 3rd stringers into it ( as oppossed to man on ).

"Yeah definitely, I would be lying if I said it wasn't," he said. "We had to play musical chairs on the offensive line where more than one guy moves, so it was tough, definitely."

http://www.nfl.com/teams/story/HOU/9033967

HJam72
05-02-2006, 06:11 AM
Just for the record, I don't think ZB should be allowed. Throwing blocks at the knees just isn't right and it seems to be inevitable if you're going to do the ZBS the right way. As long as it's going to be allowed, hey it works, so I guess we should use it.

Johnny Utah
05-02-2006, 08:15 AM
Just for the record, I don't think ZB should be allowed. Throwing blocks at the knees just isn't right and it seems to be inevitable if you're going to do the ZBS the right way. As long as it's going to be allowed, hey it works, so I guess we should use it.

If it becomes illegal I wonder where that would leave Kubiak and his offense. Will he still be effective as a head coach?

Let's hope that it stays legal and we don't have to find out.

Specter
05-03-2006, 02:33 AM
great point, it better stay legal

TwinSisters
05-03-2006, 06:02 AM
I think lightning is going to strike me at any second for defending Pendry... or worse a surge that is going to fry my rig!:hide:

BUT here is an article from the Texans' archives

http://www.houstontexans.com/news/news_detail.php?PRKey=1232
( hope it works ... the title is Danger Zone by Carter Toole if you have to search for it )

And the primary reason is Denver’s long-ago embrace of the zone blocking scheme. The Broncos’ five starters have never played anywhere else and have a combined 33 seasons of experience, led by 11-year veteran center Tom Nalen, who has been selected to five Pro Bowls. The star power is up front, and the Broncos know their scheme better than anyone else.

I don't think you can faithfully diss Pendry and his Zone Blocking technique without factoring in the loss of stability in the Texans' line.

Nevermind the need for years to gel. If you have one guy go down in October , that's the entire training camp and every practice rep since June going down with him. Time that is not going to be applied to game for Novemeber and December.

Compound that with 3 or 4 guys going down and all you have is damage control. Like a Dutchman with five fingers and twenty four holes to plug in a steady rain.

EDIT:
This is not to say Pendry's doctrine is as effective. It is only to say that you cannot use the data presented in the Outsiders article to make a valid claim without factoring in the linemen themselves ( Denver and Houston ).

thunderkyss
05-03-2006, 07:53 AM
Just for the record, I don't think ZB should be allowed. Throwing blocks at the knees just isn't right and it seems to be inevitable if you're going to do the ZBS the right way. As long as it's going to be allowed, hey it works, so I guess we should use it.

For the record.... understand ZoneBlocking & cut blocking aren't one in the same. It is possible to run a zoneblocking system, without cutblocks....... see Pendry.... true he may have needed more time to fully teach the system.

I think lightning is going to strike me at any second for defending Pendry... or worse a surge that is going to fry my rig!:hide:

I don't think you can faithfully diss Pendry and his Zone Blocking technique without factoring in the loss of stability in the Texans' line.



I'd say you have a very good point, if we had a problem with our running game. The difference between Pendry's system, and Denver's system could explain, why DD didn't break off more long runs..... why DD got stuffed behind the line, and IMHO, why he gets hurt.....

But that has nothing to do with Pass Blocking......... Pass protection should be the same techniques, and methods used by every player, from Junior high on up. Keeping the Defense off David Carr has little to do with zone blocking, other than the smaller linemen are at a disadvantage to larger linemen...... But we have larger linemen..... so it wasn't that.

I honestly think there is something about David, that Brown, Weary, and Mickinney didn't like.... there is no way you could let that many people go by you. I don't think it is possible to be that bad.... they had to have been letting some of those guys go on purpose.

It's all speculation right now, but we'd have had to been perfect at picking the worst of the worst for 3 drafts straight.


Nevermind the need for years to gel. If you have one guy go down in October , that's the entire training camp and every practice rep since June going down with him. Time that is not going to be applied to game for Novemeber and December.


& that, I believe(other than some kind of hatred of David) has been our biggest problem. If your left tackle goes down, then you need to put a left tackle in his spot. Don't move your best Left Gaurd over to Left Tackle(your 2nd best Left Tackle) and then move your Right gaurd to left gaurd, then put in some guy off the bench.
with that line up, you have.......
2nd best LT......2nd best LG.......Center.....2nd best RG.......RT

instead of
2nd/3rd best LT......... LG........Center........ RG........RT.....

your left tackle is weaker........ maybe a lot weaker than it would be moving the gaurd. but the rest of your line is as solid as it was when you had all starters......... put your tightend on the left side, help dude out. Get your running back used to looking to the left first.... it's better to help the one guy, than trying to figure which one of three needs help first.

We need quality depth at certain positions.... so when one man goes down, we can still move forward.... even if two goes down..... we should be ready to play without two starters........ three, then any team will be in real trouble.

El Tejano
05-03-2006, 09:32 AM
[QUOTE=TwinSisters]I think lightning is going to strike me at any second for defending Pendry... or worse a surge that is going to fry my rig!:hide:


http://www.houstontexans.com/news/news_detail.php?PRKey=1232
( hope it works ... the title is Danger Zone by Carter Toole if you have to search for it )

QUOTE]

I think the experience part is why we are seeing guys like Flannagan and Salaam being signed to our team.

TwinSisters
05-04-2006, 05:04 AM
I honestly think there is something about David, that Brown, Weary, and Mickinney didn't like.... there is no way you could let that many people go by you. I don't think it is possible to be that bad.... they had to have been letting some of those guys go on purpose.

eheh.. that's crazy talk. :crazy:

It's unlikely to have happened once, much less 150 times ( or whatever Carr's sack count is right now... 208 for 1226 yards, that's not too shabby if he was going forward at 5.8 yards a sack ).

Erratic Assassin
05-04-2006, 07:57 PM
I honestly think there is something about David, that Brown, Weary, and Mickinney didn't like.... there is no way you could let that many people go by you. I don't think it is possible to be that bad.... they had to have been letting some of those guys go on purpose.

Do you honestly believe that our O-line has been embarrassing themselves on purpose?

They bust their asses all year round lifting weights, running, going through training camp in the Texas heat, practicing their brains out all season, watching film, making all kinds of sacrifices and then purposely let people sack David Carr in front of hundreds of thousands of people including their families and friends?

They are willing to listen to the jokes, be the laughingstock of the league, answer the same tough questions every week? What does that do to their market value? Do you honestly think anyone is stupid enough to lose millions of dollars by pretending to be a bad lineman? A guy who gives up 2 sacks per year gets paid more than one who gives up 15 sacks.

I have a hard time believing one guy would be that petty and stupid much less the dozens of linemen that have passed through this team over the years. That's one hell of a conspiracy theory.

Vinny
05-04-2006, 08:00 PM
Do you honestly believe that our O-line has been embarrassing themselves on purpose?

They bust their asses all year round lifting weights, running, going through training camp in the Texas heat, practicing their brains out all season, watching film, making all kinds of sacrifices and then purposely let people sack David Carr in front of hundreds of thousands of people including their families and friends?

They are willing to listen to the jokes, be the laughingstock of the league, answer the same tough questions every week? What does that do to their market value? Do you honestly think anyone is stupid enough to lose millions of dollars by pretending to be a bad lineman? A guy who gives up 2 sacks per year gets paid more than one who gives up 15 sacks.

I have a hard time believing one guy would be that petty and stupid much less the dozens of linemen that have passed through this team over the years. That's one hell of a conspiracy theory.I think we can both agree there is no conspiracy. Every player knows that his paycheck is tied to game film. Nobody who wants a good contract will have a goofy agenda...it's all there on tape, your money is tied into the film and the film doesn't lie.

BradK10
05-04-2006, 08:02 PM
I'm pretty sure that was tongue in cheek anyhow

Vinny
05-04-2006, 08:22 PM
I'm pretty sure that was tongue in cheek anyhowI was agreeing that thunderkyss's point was not a good one.