Most offensive lineman have no problem with the straight up drive block – but adjusting to the defensive line’s alignment, forcing them to pull out the reach block for example, can be confusing and tough to execute properly. Instead they’ll block as if the defender was head up, when if they’re lined up to one side and the ball is headed in that direction, and they simply try to execute a drive block here, they’ll just knock the defender right into the football.
We call this alignment an outside technique, and the block that we use for the outside technique is called the reach block – sliding over and pushing the defender up and away from the backfield. But this can lead to problems, as oftentimes a player’s first reaction will be to make their first step a parallel position step to the outside.
If you go parallel with your first step on a reach block, you’ll give up the line of scrimmage. So instead we teach our lineman to pick-up step. That pick-up step right at his outside knee. And that’s the most important step, is making sure that they don’t position step. The idea behind the pick up step is not to over extend yourself – you’ll lose all leverage. We just want to pick the foot up off the ground and move it forward slightly, so that with our next step, we can cover ground in whatever direction we need to.
It’s a good idea to isolate the pick-up step, as it’s the most important part of the reach block – I like to have them focus on just doing the pick up step, freezing, and checking whether they’ve kept a strong athletic stance and are maintaining the line of scrimmage.
Once they’ve got that down, we can start practicing with a blocking bag. We teach the kid that his first step’s at the outside knee, and on his second step he wants his face and hands on the outside shoulder pad. So for this second part of the drill, have the coaches or players holding the blocking bags take one step to the outside when the offensive lineman moves, to simulate a real defensive lineman’s movement.
Number one thing is we move the line of scrimmage, and make sure that both our first and second steps are upfield. The second thing is we’re at his outside shoulder pad. The only thing that defensive lineman has to make a tackle with is from his shoulder pad down right there.
For an idea of the kind of angle you want to create, have a look at the diagram above. From this position, the worst thing you could do is try to swing your hips. If you swing your hips right here, they get in the way of the running back. So what we want a guy to do on a reach block right here is to just simply drive that line. He’s not going to take the defensive man and turn him this way. We don’t care about that. We want to move the line of scrimmage.
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