insite into Zone Blocking Scheme

Discussion in 'Texans Talk' started by barrett, May 13, 2008.

  1. barrett

    barrett Hall of Fame

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    http://www.houstontexans.com/news/Story.asp?story_id=4318

    A top priority for the Texans this season is to execute a balanced attack with equal amounts of passing and rushing.

    Passing wasn’t a problem last season. The quarterback tandem of Matt Schaub and Sage Rosenfels helped the Texans average 234.4 passing yards per game, which ranked 11th in the league.

    The run game was a different story. The Texans’ 99.1 yards rushing per game ranked 22nd, and the team averaged 6.2 yards fewer than 2006.

    Head coach Gary Kubiak said that to improve the run game, a few things had to change. Namely, the team needed more talent at running back and a new blocking scheme.

    The draft and free agency took care of the first need. The second is being handled by new assistant head coach Alex Gibbs, who is installing the same zone blocking scheme that powered the Denver Broncos’ run game during their 1990s Super Bowl years.

    Many fans wonder: What is zone blocking, and how will it improve the Texans’ run game? Here is an in-depth response to those two questions:

    Coach’s clinic
    The basic concept behind zone blocking in the running game is that offensive linemen work in tandem to block players in their zone, instead of having a predetermined man to block.

    “We’re going to block the people in our area at the time they get there, so almost regardless of what the defense can do to you, they’re going to show you where the holes are and where the ball should be run,” offensive line coach John Benton said.

    Adjacent blockers help clear the way for the running back by coming off the line in unison to attack the defensive line on the play side, or the side where the ball carrier is going. This can be a huge advantage for the offensive line because it creates a double team on one defensive lineman and opens up a crease for the runner.

    “It’s not just about brute strength. It’s (about) being fast and getting up to the second level quickly and being able to cut guys." - Duane Brown
    Essentially, the running back is responsible for finding a crease, making a cut and then running upfield. Dancing behind the line of scrimmage is frowned upon.

    If the defense overplays the ball, the runner can opt for a cut-back play. If the defense plays behind the ball, the running back can run to the outside.

    “The thing everyone likes about the zone scheme who has bought into it is they’ll really tell you there is no true way to defend it, because no matter you do (as a defense) there’s an answer built into every play,” Benton said. “You don’t have to call a different play to have your answer, like a lot of offenses do.”

    Another advantage to the zone blocking scheme is that after offensive linemen double team a defensive lineman, one of the two offensive linemen can penetrate further to attack a linebacker. That clears a much bigger path for the running back.

    “The better you are getting to what we call the second level, or the linebackers, the more successful you can be with your bigger runs and that type of thing,” Benton said. “So the speed and the quickness is more of a priority than some of the other offenses, where you’re working double teams the entire time and kind of mashing them and making them come to you.”

    A final element of the zone blocking scheme is the use of the cut block, which occurs below the knees when a players is not engaged with another blocker. This technique helps seal off backside pursuit.

    A cut block is most effective when linemen on the backside of the play block the defensive player(s) in front of them, opening up a cut-back lane for the running back.

    Because offensive linemen in a zone scheme have to be able to move to where the ball is going rather than where they are when the ball is snapped, these blockers have to be quick and agile.

    That’s where the Texans’ reconfigured offensive line comes in.

    Getting to the second level
    The mastermind behind the Texans’ zone scheme is Gibbs, one of the best offensive line coaches in NFL history who came out of retirement to help Kubiak improve the running game.

    Gibbs spent 13 combined seasons (1984-1987 and 1995-2003) in Denver. During his nine seasons there with Kubiak, the Broncos led the NFL in rushing with 20,150 yards. From 2004-2006, Gibbs guided the Atlanta Falcons to an NFL-best 8,157 rushing yards in his capacity as assistant head coach/offensive line.

    Gibbs’ brand of football is athletic, tough and successful. And with the help of Benton, whose offensive line only allowed 22 sacks last year, Gibbs has added athleticism to the front line.

    Starting center Chris Myers, a free agent from Denver, boasts strong hands and an explosive step after the snap. Plus, he knows Gibbs’ system.

    “I was already familiar with zone blocking,” Myers said. “But he’s changing the Houston Texans’ run game. Having the guy who signifies the whole zone blocking scheme helps a lot here.”

    In mini-camp, left tackle Duane Brown, the 26th overall draft pick, showed he could play with the first team.

    “It’s all about movement,” Brown said. “It’s not just about brute strength. It’s (about) being fast and getting up to the second level quickly and being able to cut guys. And that helps me a lot because that’s my kind of game. I’m an athletic left tackle.”

    Being thrown out against defensive end Mario Williams was a baptism by fire for Brown, but he made vast improvements with Gibbs in his face during the three-day camp.

    “He’s (Gibbs) just bringing me up to speed,” Brown said. “The first day was pretty rough. I got chewed out a little bit. Being with the first team, you can’t have too many mistakes. He’s been surprised at how well I’ve caught up on things and he’s excited about working with me.”

    Guard Chester Pitts said Gibbs pushes his lineman to play at the next level on every snap.

    “It’s the attitude and everything he brings with him,” Pitts said. “He expects and demands your absolute best, and not just your absolute best but doing it the right way all the time.”

    Gibbs’ zone scheme is not simple, so he methodically works with players on the field and in meetings.

    “He’s a great teacher,” right tackle Eric Winson said. “He’s very specific in what he wants to do and he just knows exactly how to teach the guys, and I think he finds exactly what each guy can do and really tries to develop on that.”

    Running with it
    Of course, Gibbs’ zone blocking scheme isn’t a magical pill that the Texans can swallow to generate 1,000-yard rushers with consistency, but it has been successful wherever he has coached.

    The Texans’ offensive line already looks quicker and more agile than it did last year. Pitts even lost 10 pounds. During training camp, Gibbs will be cramming reps down the players’ throats, making sure they have perfected their technique and can move in unison.

    And he won’t let down. Not until the Texans consistently cut block, keep defenses guessing, create lanes for the ball carrier …and win a championship. That’s what Gibbs’ scheme is all about.
     
  2. edo783

    edo783 Site Contributor

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    Good post and it sure sounds promising.
     
  3. Ole Miss Texan

    Ole Miss Texan Hall of Fame

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    Wow. Well, I don't know how to respond. I find myself wanting to quote a paragraph here and a paragraph there, and pretty soon it'd be the entire article.

    If I had to do one...

    Sweeeeeeet! :yes:

    Oh and that is Duane Brown reference above. Not Chris Brown, not CC Brown... but DUANE Brown!
     
  4. barrett

    barrett Hall of Fame

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    there was also video with the linemen talking about it. pitts had a great line from it saying ""imagine elephants walking together. head to tail, head to tail and basically in that path, you have tracks. inside zone, outside zone, whoever is in your path, thats who you block." just an awesome visual!

    edit: more acurate quote
     
  5. Thorn

    Thorn Dirty Old Man

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    Interesting read, thanks for posting. I don't normally visit the Texans official web site, it's a little "busy" for me.
     
  6. Andrew6

    Andrew6 Site Contributor

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    Who is the Texans starting RG as of right now

    I ASSuME that the rest are

    LT - Brown
    LG - Pitts
    C - Myers
    RG - ?????
    RT - Cromagnum man
     
  7. infantrycak

    infantrycak Mod. Staff Member

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    Briesel started, but the competition is pretty much open between him, Spencer, Studdard, Weary and Frye.
     
  8. Andrew6

    Andrew6 Site Contributor

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    I like Weary not sure Spencer will be ready. Don't know much about Frye and wasn't overly impressed with Studdard. (often question him being signed b/c he was baby sat by Kubiaks wife)
     


  9. ATXtexanfan

    ATXtexanfan Site Contributor

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    nice opening post
     
  10. Polo

    Polo Guest

    I'm not entirely sold on Pitts as the LG in this Gibbs ZB type of scheme..
     
  11. Wolf

    Wolf 100% Texan

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    http://www.texanstalk.com/forums/showthread.php?t=46625

    there is a quote, on link where I said gibbs was all about repetition, repetition, repetition
     
  12. Cjeremy635

    Cjeremy635 Overtraining

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    This sure as heck sounds promising and it's nice that they will be defined by a scheme now, instead of a hybrid system that didn't mosh too well on the field. I'm excited about the comments and looking forward to the cut blocks. That may sound wrong, but our team needs to be more aggressive and open up those holes for our backs to slide through. It's that split second that the defender has to question if you are going to take his legs out that makes all of the difference in the world. Thanks for posting the article, the season can't start fast enough!
     
  13. Texans_Chick

    Texans_Chick Utopian Dreamer

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    I've asked the HT.com people to do as much football technical stuff as they can because a. they have the access, b. it makes it more fun for fans to watch the games if they know what to be looking for.

    I've been told that this is going to be an offseason priority for them. This article is an illustration of that. Hurray!
     
  14. nunusguy

    nunusguy Hall of Fame

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    From the sounds of reports to this point, Chester is excelling and maybe one of the most impressive OLineman.
     
  15. nunusguy

    nunusguy Hall of Fame

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    I dunno why the cut technique is required ?
    I mean I get the concept of the Olineman getting downfield on the backside of the play to execute blocks in the second-level to open up cut-back lanes for the running back, but why the need to cut-block the defenders, unless
    the ZB proponents thinks its necessary to get the defenders completely off their feet ?
     
  16. TK_Gamer

    TK_Gamer Hall of Fame

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    The initial ground gained on a run play is due to penetration of the O-line, then usually a LB or DL makes an initial head on hit and if the RB gets past the first guy any tackle from that point on is made on the backside of the play or from the flanks of the RB. In ZBS, a good cut-block can turn those pursuers into running lanes. The O-lineman sees the LB out in space on the backside and throws himself in his path taking him out of the play and that now leaves a lane for the RB to cut into and gain an additional 4 to 6 yards or more. In a traditional power blocking scheme, the RB would have been alone at that spot and if he lacked the speed and agility to evade the LB, his run would have stopped there. I hope I made some sense.

    the big benefit of completely taking the guy out is, if a guy was just being blocked, The RB would still have to work "around" the blocker to get by, kinda like a pick. But if the guy is takin out of the play its much quicker cut and the defender can no longer reach around the blocker to take down the RB. He cuts directly in front of where the guy went down, in that empty space.
     
  17. barrett

    barrett Hall of Fame

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    i filled out there survey yesterday afternoon and i must have written 15 paragraphs praising them for having one of the best NFL sites around and yet still asking for more more MORE!!! That was one of the things that I recommended as well was more detailed info. especially this time of year when we the fanatics are the ones checking the site several times a day.

    i also begged them to take off the under armor ad as it had driven me crazy for some time.
     
  18. Texans_Chick

    Texans_Chick Utopian Dreamer

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    It does two basic things:

    1. As you say, it puts potential backside defenders on the ground. When they are there, they are not tackling the RB.
    2. It takes away from the defense's aggression. Typically, defensive linemen are better athletes than offensive linemen. One way to neutralize that athletic advantage is to get the defenses to become less aggressive by penalizing them when they are.

    A while back, FootballOutsiders did a study of zone blocking. They speculated that cut blocking might result in better yards on average.

    I've always like this description in one of the comments in that post of how a cut block might be helpful using Dayne when he was with Denver(and one of the reasons I like blog comments):

    I think this is overly simplified in parts, but I think it illustrates the purpose of cut blocks.
     
  19. Ole Miss Texan

    Ole Miss Texan Hall of Fame

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    I cannot wait till the season. I'm so pumped, I think our OL is going to be much better. This is going to be really exciting- Better OL play, Better RB's, Better rushing, just as good if not better passing because of the run game...
     
  20. barrett

    barrett Hall of Fame

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    with that analysis i would give anything to see video of the play so that i could watch it all develop as described. this stuff is fascinating!
     

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