On the Value of Zone Blocking

Andrew Mason at denverbroncos.com quotes Hall of Fame offensive tackle Gary Zimmerman on the benefits of running a zone blocking scheme. The Bears will do at least some zone blocking this year:

“‘It’s going to take a lot of pressure off [Peyton Manning], for one. In the past, the [offense] was one-dimensional, it was pretty much a throwing team, and that’s what everyone prepared for, and all the pressure was on Peyton, so when you have a zone-blocking game, if the run’s not working, you go to the pass, and if the pass is not working, you go to the run,’ Zimmerman said in an interview for a story posted April 2.

“‘I think the biggest thing in the zone blocking is that the defense has a lot more to think about, because a lot of plays look alike, and there’s a lot of pass plays that look like run plays. It kind of puts a little more thinking on the defense as in the previous years, where they just lined up and played, and knew that the pass was coming. Now they’re going to have to first determine if it’s a run or a pass, and then go from there.'”

Zone blocking often involves taking a side step or a bucket step and reacting to the direction the defensive lineman takes. I’ve always been a fan of firing off of the ball at the snap, myself, because it allows the use of the only advantage offensive linemen have – they know the snap count. But I can see Zimmerman’s point.

All linebackers are told to watch the offensive lineman as a key to whether the play is a run or a pass.  But because zone blocking often involves the same kind of movement that pass blocking involves, a run can look an awful lot like a pass to a defender. They therefore are more likely to hesitate and wait for other keys to tell what’s going on. That can be a great advantage in a game where speed is everything.

Assuming the Bears do what Broncos did last year, they are going to run a combination of blocking techniques. If the lineman can master them all, it could make them very formidable. If they can master them all.

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