Football games are won on the line of scrimmage, and no position is more important for opening up game-winning plays than the offensive lineman. Dominating the gridiron can be as simple as practicing and honing your skills with these offensive lineman drills and exercises.
The three-yard runs that grind defenses down play after play open up bigger opportunities as the clock runs down. The offensive linemen owns the line of scrimmage – this is the position protects the ball before anything else. The center, guards and tackles are the gatekeepers of the game, but the line doesn’t stand a chance without power, agility and intelligence.
These are the essential offensive lineman drills and exercises that allow an O-line to dictate the outcome of a game.
Like all positions on the field, effective O-line play begins with a proper stance. Stance is the starting point from which players explode forward and dictate the flow of a play. The three-point stance is the standard stance for the center and guards, and it’s frequently employed by tackles. A proper three-point stance is low to the ground, with an offensive lineman’s lower back at the same elevation as his helmet. The head must be up and looking forward and weight must be distributed equally on the hands and feet. An imbalanced stance isn’t just a liability when the ball snaps, it can be a giveaway even before then, with savvy defenders able to read a play based upon an offensive lineman’s weight distribution. Although the three-point stance is the standard for O-linemen, it’s not the only stance. Players should also practice the four-point stance, for short yardage and goal line situations, and the two-point stance, for passing downs.
Run Play: First Step and Quick Strike
An offensive lineman is typically the biggest player on the field, but they better be quick, too. The greatest advantage they have is knowing when the ball is going to be snapped. When it is, O-linemen must snap into position, striking their assigned defenders and pushing them away from the path of the ball carrier during a run play. The first step, strike and drive is an essential part of an offensive lineman’s tactics – if not the most vital of them all.
Pass Protection: First Step and Extension
Running plays require that O-linemen get push, chewing up precious inches of turf while shoving defenders downfield. Pass protection, on the other hand, is fundamentally different. Where as an offensive lineman’s first step during a rushing play is always forward, during pass plays, an offensive lineman’s first step may be backwards. Pass protection begins with the lower body – quick feet are essential to effective blocking on passing downs. Just as important are hands – with proper punching and arm extension, a center, guard, or tackle will keep his quarterback clean.
While quickness is important in all facets of offensive line play, nowhere is it more essential than in pulling. Pulling is mostly called for during run plays to the outside, where unguarded defenders wait to put their helmets on the ball. They don’t get their chance when pull plays are executed properly. Backup saves the day, arriving in the form of a guard or tackle with a full head of steam who swings to the outside and smashes defenders away, clearing the path for the ball carrier to rumble unimpeded downfield. Various drills can help train an O-lineman to disengage from the line of scrimmage, accelerate, and target a defender for demolition.
Discipline & Pride
Offensive line play is a head game. Maybe that’s why O-linemen consistently score better than any other position (except for the quarterback) on the Wunderlic test. Getting position on a defender and opening up running lanes takes discipline. It takes respect for the little move that’s right and self control to keep oneself from overcommitting. Football might seem physical – and it is – but you could have all the physical gifts in the world and you won’t see the field. An offensive lineman has to keep his head in the game.