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MHR University - 3-4: Position Responsibilities and Blocking Theory (Part Two)


3 men on your defense lined up to take on 5 giant offensive linemen? The fans want to know what's gotten into yur head.

Not only that, the offensive coordinator throws in two big blocking TE's to ensure his QB's protection. Your men are outnumbered 7 to 3, and giving up hundreds of pounds in comparison. You give the go ahead. It's a base 3-4 defense, and you're not afraid.

The offense is outnumbered.; they just don't know it yet.

But they're about to find out.

First, let's look at some remedial diagrams from MHR Univerity's past to help follow along with the current article:



Remember that "technique" is a term that refers to where a defensive lineman will line up, and specificaly, it refers to which shoulder of the offensive lineman he'll line up on. This will be critical in the 3-4, as we are about to see in some of the following examples of very basic blocking plays.

Also, be sure to read last week's article (here), and the following MHR University articles for a better understanding of the current story. While most MHR-U articles are designed for the fan who wants to learn the basics, this article is buiding on what many of you have been learning over the last year. The articles to re-read are:

MHR-U story about the 3-4 formation

MHR-U story on gaps and techniques

MHR-U story about the nose tackle

Let's draw up a play (not a full blown play, but just a sub-play). Our play will focus on the DL. It's a pass rush, and will help bring everything together we've been working on. It's a simple, standard play.

In the following diagram, the NT will line up zero gap. The RDE will line up 3 technique. Let's stop there. Believe it or not, we have a full article of material ready to break down on this simple line-up. Here's what it looks like so far:

3-4Blocking.jpg 3-4 Blocking picture by hoosierteacher

We have so many options here, and there is really more complexity than meets the eye. But let's look at a few surface issues with only a few players on the field to illustrate how wonderful the art and science of playmaking is in the trenches.

Note first that the RDE is commited to driving forward on the left shoulder of the LG. What should this cause? If you guessed that the LT may have to pivot to the right to help the center block the RDE, pat yourself on the back. This leaves the ROLB free to blitz, or to take on a lone (optional) TE if one is on the weakside.

You've just learned a lot about blocking in that small section. No, REALLY. You've learned that the alignment at a certain technique is crucial. If the DE lines up at the 4 technique, he might pull the OC to the weakside, right where we don't want him (our blitz is that way).

You've also learned how deep the rabbit hole runs. The complexity can be staggering. Think you can run an offense now as a pro QB, now that you've seen the illustration? What if you see the above picture on the field, and just before the snap, the DL shifts left or right? Not scared enough? If you're playing against the zone blitz (as the Cardinals learned the hard way against Pittsburgh on a few plays), that RDE may drop back into coverage, and the LBs may, may, may what? Who knows? We can run literaly dozens of formations out of a "simple" 3-4", with hundreds of plays, each with dozens of variations.

But let's stick with our picture for a moment longer. We can learn more. Depending on tendencies we've seen from the OC and the LG while breaking down game film, we can use the NT a few different ways. He can hit the "A" Gap on the offense's right to pull another lineman (the OC) away from the LOLB's blitz. He can even hit the other "A" gap, believing he can handle the OC, while "pulling" the LG between the NT and the RDE. Choices, choices!

Still not impressed? We haven't even brough the ILBs into the mix yet. One of them can "delay blitz", taking the gap that opens up after the OLmen commit to their blocks. He can also "shoot" a predetermined route. He can play man, or he can play zone. He can even jump in to be a fourth blocker! While there, he can "punch", "rip", "swim", or use a myriad of other tactics to get past his blocker(s).

The simple building block of where each DLman lines up is the building block at the base of our play creation. Next we layer in our linebackers (I reverse the process if running a 4-3, or the common 4-4 found at the HS level). Last, we layer in the DBs (even if what the DBs are doing is at the heart of our play).

The second block is, "Where is each player going to go, and/or what is he going to do?"

Now you might have an inkling of why "Madden" the game doesn't prepare a guy to be an NFL coach. I'm not critical of the game at all (it helps folks play a game they might not otherwise get to play on the field, it builds a love of football, and it has a teaching effect to a certain point). But it doesn't go into the minutae that you will the next time you watch a football game armed with a little book smarts from the folks at MHR.

Getting the picture of why I love the trenches so much? It's where the game is won and lost. Man, I L-O-V-E defense!


This week we used a simple (and partial illustration) to add some depth to our knowledge on the 3-4, and how blocking can work in a pass rush. Next week we'll look at stopping the run. Next week's story won't be a "Part 3" because the concepts we'll focus on (one and two gap blocking) will not be 3-4 specific. However, the concepts we'll cover will apply to the 3-4 as well as every other formation.

Please ask any questions you may have about the article or football in general, and let me know if there is a subject you would like to see covered in the future. Remember the main rule: we're all here to learn, and no question is too simple and no question (unless it's sarcastic) is dumb.

See you in the comments!