Pass Protection

Pass Protection

One of the most glossed over parts of football from a fan perspective is pass protection. You could quiz most fans and they would have zero clue about how they work or what they look like. This is not their fault however. Pass protection lends itself to complexity, so I will try to explain it as simply as possible. The stereotype that offensive linemen are yolked out meatheads is a fallacy. For the sake of Brevity, we will focus on three types of pass protection:

  1. Man
  2. Zone
  3. Combination

Man Protection

Man or BOB (Big on Big) blocking schemes are the simplest form of pass protection. They are good for getting offensive linemen on defensive linemen while having a back assigned to a linebacker. Essentially covered offensive linemen will block the defensive linemen covering them. The OL always want to protect against the most imminent threat from the defense. This might depend on defensive personnel or tendencies. Non-center offensive lineman will block a defensive lineman that are lined up directly over top or shaded over him. The linemen who aren't covered will work "inside out". This means that those linemen that aren't covered will look to protect their inside gap before looking to lock on to a LB. The center doesn't necessarily follow this concept.

BOB Right

BOB Left

Notice here that the guard and the center work together to pick up the tackle and the WLB or the MLB if they blitz. The RB can pick up either LB as well. If the RB isn't available for pass pro, it will force a hot read from the QB if they bring a 6 man pressure.

By adding a TE, RB or both, you can really solidify the pass protection scheme. 5 and 6 man protection schemes are fine, but any pressure more than 6 men can be a problem. They can be mitigated with hit reads in the passing game, but its not ideal. This adds complexity and it can be a lot to dissect in the heat of the moment during a game. By going to a 7 man blocking scheme, the only way the defense can force a hot throw would be with cover 0 behind it because the defense would need to send a secondary defender. (CB blitz, fire blitz) These are just some base concepts and they can be adapted to just about any game plan.

BOB Right 7 Man Protect

BOB Right 7 Man Protect

Zone or Slide Protection

Zone protections are a simpler form of pass protection. Rather than having blockers pick up combinations of defenders, blockers will simply block a gap or zone. This removes much of the complexity of most man schemes. Slide protections are almost always a minimum of a 6 man protection. It is important for linemen to be disciplined and keep their heads up. Even slide protection they have inside out responsibility. If a linemen steps to an empty gap or is uncovered, they can look to help inside if no LB shows.

Slide Right w/o TE

Slide Left w/ TE

One major downside to this kind of protection is that it relies on a RB on blocking a defensive end most of the time. In my experience, defensive ends are one of the best athletes on the defense for many teams. Not every team has a brawler at RB. If you have a good match-up at RB and you think he can bang with those guys, this scheme might be a good fit.

Combination Protection

Combo protection is probably the most effective blocking scheme out of the three discussed here, and if I'm honest, most protection devolves into a bastardized version of combo protection anyway. Zone blocking to one side helps deal with blitzes and stunts because linemen aren't tempted to chase their assignment. It also reduces the amount of pressure on the front side linemen to determine match-ups and combinations that happen in BOB pass protection. It also means that you will have a RB on a LB in most scenarios. This is good for most teams because their RB can usually bang with most LBs.

Combo Right

Left w/ TE

Pass Blocking Technique

Here are some great articles on pass blocking technique.

Clinic Videos

Bill O'Brien Patriots Empty Set Protections

Technique & Drill Videos