The bedrock principle of our running game is to attack with a downhill running game that focuses on level 1 movement and displacement. Fundamental to that is the combination block. A good combination block essentially guarantees a positive yardage play that will keep the offense on schedule. Staying on schedule is critical to moving the chains toward the end zone on a way to a score.
We are always looking for efficiencies in our teaching and coaching. When we can work a drill that has multiple applications in our offense across different concepts, we are maximizing our practice time. We rely on both gap schemes and zone schemes to run the ball effectively. The way we teach the combination block is the same for both of these schemes. When we work a drill for the “B-block” in the zone scheme, we are also getting work for the “Deuce Block” in our gap scheme.
The principle that makes the combination the same in both run concepts is in each the offensive line is going in one direction. On zone plays everyone is responsible for their playside gap. In the gap scheme plays everyone is responsible for their backside gap with two people kicking out. Gap responsibility is the overriding rule for both of these schemes.
The specifics of our “deuce” block which we use on our power play will be described and illustrated in this article. For a defender though, it is very difficult to discern whether the play is zone away from him or power to him.
Against an over front, the guard is the post man. If he has no immediate threat in his inside gap, he is responsible for posting the down lineman to his outside gap. His objective is to get vertical displacement of the down lineman by driving him upfield at the point of attack.
We do allow the guard to bring his step a little more to parallel. This shortens the distance that his leg has to travel to get to the crotch of the defender. The target for the guard is the inside number of the down defender. His approach with footwork is to take an up and down (jab) step with his inside foot. This is the foot to the direction of his gap responsibility which is exactly what is taught in the zone scheme. His second step will be through the crotch of the defender. He will want to keep this leg high into the defender through the block. He wants his feet to remain staggered with the inside foot always behind.
We have taught this with both a punch and a lazy forearm. A lazy forearm is acceptable if the linebacker is farther removed from the down defender. The lazy forearm creates more of a blocking surface and helps force the hips through the defender. Now this does create more of a surface to grab for the defensive lineman as well. The danger is he holds the guard and doesn’t allow him to get off to the linebacker. In the case of a defender using this technique, a punch is better.
The eyes of the post man are immediately to the backside linebacker so he knows exactly when he needs to come off. In taking his eyes in that direction he is able to block an inside A-gap threat.
The offensive tackle in this example is the drive man. His objective is to drive the defender who is in his inside gap vertically with the post man. Eventually, he will take this block over on his own. The only time he will come off of the block is if the down lineman plays into the inside gap of the post man.
The drive man will take two short steps firing his feet quickly in order to get him into a position to step through the defender’s crotch on his third step. As he is taking his footwork he should key the defender’s near hip. If it goes away, then the drive man will go to the backside linebacker. He is striking with a strong inside hand and overtaking the defender with two hands.
We want the drive man to be aggressive in his block and really have the mentality that he is getting into the defender and driving him downfield. He should take pride in being able to drive the defender in his gap off the ball. In his mind, the guard is setting him up and straightening the defender so that the drive man can aggressively finish the block and get the vertical displacement needed for a successful play.
In the following set of still shots, the combination to the backside linebacker on one back power is illustrated. The pre-shot gives a point of reference for how the combination should work vertically, and the guard (post man) does not come off until that linebacker gets to him. Use the hash mark and the line drawn to represent the line of scrimmage as reference points.
In the next shot, the high leg of the guard is visible as he is throwing a flipper into the defender and working his hips through.
When the guard finally comes off the combination, the linebacker has come to him as you see he is now to the other side of the hash mark. You will also notice that the combination has created a hole in the defense for the running back to gain yards.
Drilling the combination:
The first part of the progression focuses on vertical movement with neither offensive players coming off the double team. The focus for both linemen is to get a high leg and work the hips into the defender. This is a good drill to reinforce the need to get vertical movement. We really do not want the post man to come off until that linebacker gets to him
The emphasis on driving the double team is evident on this power play. The drive man and post man move the defender vertically off the ball and the post man does not come off until the linebacker is right on top of him. This creates a huge lane for the running back.
The second part of the progression has the post man working with the drive man to take the defender vertical and then come off to the scraping linebacker. Varying the distance of the linebacker from the combination will work the different timing which the post man may have to come off of the combination.
In this example, the combination gets vertical movement with the guard coming off late to the backside linebacker.
The final part of the progression works the down defender working to the post man’s inside gap. The post man will have to take the defender on his own, and the drive man will now come off to the linebacker. This should only be worked once the mentality of the drive man is to really knock the down defender off the ball. You do not want to build tentativeness in the drive man by having him think too much about the linebacker coming over the top. Most times this would be a positive play even if he makes an error in staying on and driving the down defender.