All About Offensive Linemen

Because the top player chosen in this year’s NFL Draft is most likely going to be a lineman, this post is dedicated to what the offensive and defensive linemen do on the field.  To begin with, the number one term for a lineman should be the word “gap.”  Gap refers to the space between the players on the offensive line and is important to both offensive and defensive linemen because they will each be given specific gap responsibility on each play.  The defensive players may try to throw the offensive linemen off of their gap responsibility by using a stunt maneuver.  One stunt example is when a defensive lineman pinches, or moves from a 3-technique to a 1-technique.  But the smart offensive lineman will counter by staying at home.   To understand what I just said, read the following:

Gap

This is a reference to the space between the offensive line.  There are various ways of labeling these gaps, with the simplest being that the space between the Center and the Guard is the “A Gap,” the space between the Guard and the Tackle is the “B Gap” and the space between the Tackle and a Tight End is the “C Gap.”

OT –B Gap– OG –A Gap– Center —A Gap– OG –B Gap– OT –C Gap– TE

Gap Responsibility

This is the Gap that a player is responsible for covering, either as an attacker on defense or a defender on offense.

Stunt

This is a maneuver used by defensive players to confuse the offensive line as to where they are moving by essentially trading assignments.  It is executed in many different ways and relies on the ability of the defensive players involved to lure one or more offensive linemen to block the wrong area or player.  This will result in leaving one offensive lineman out of position and unable to block and therefore freeing up another defensive player to attack the quarterback.  For instance, take Defensive Linemen 1 and 2 against Offensive Linemen A and B.   If A is assigned to block #1 and B is assigned to block #2, then in this scheme #1 will try to move up and lure B to block him instead.  Because B is occupied with #1 and A is on the inside, unable to reach #2, this will leave defensive lineman #2 unblocked and free to run around the outside to attack the quarterback.   This typically takes place in a passing situation and therefore, one risk is that this maneuver can make the defense more vulnerable in running plays.  Also, if the offensive blocker reads the move correctly and “stays at home,” this will negate the stunt.

Staying at Home

Staying at home means that the player will adjust his blocking assignment and maintain his gap responsibility, either by remaining in position or adjusting his position on the field.  Therefore, in the example above, Player B will not be fooled into blocking #1 and instead will move to his left to cover #2 and maintain his B Gap responsibility, therefore allowing A to block #1 as intended.  If a player’s job is to block the player farthest to the left, then he stays with that and will block the player farthest to the left, regardless of whether this is #1 or #2.  As soon as one offensive lineman recognizes the Stunt he can communicate it with the lineman next to him by nudging him with his elbow so that the player knows to “stay at home.”

Technique

The exact way of labeling the different techniques may differ amongst football programs, but this is essentially used to describe a defensive lineman’s position relative to the offensive counterparts.  For instance, the terms I use below for 1, 2 and 3-Techniques describe the position of the Defensive Tackle in relation to the Offensive Guard, who stand across from one another in a typical defensive formation.  And the player in that specific position will often be labeled as the 3-technique, 2-technique, etc.

1-Technique

This is the position of the Defensive Tackle in which rather than lining up squarely across from the Offensive Guard, he lines up on his inside shoulder or his inside eye.  This places the Defensive Tackle in the Gap between the Offensive Guard and the Center (A Gap).

2-Technique

This is the position of the Defensive Tackle in which he is lined up nose-to-nose or directly square to the Offensive Guard.

3-Technique

This is the position of the Defensive Tackle in which rather than lining up squarely across from the Offensive Guard, he lines up on his outside shoulder or outside eye.  This places the Defensive Tackle in the Gap between the Offensive Guard and the Offensive Tackle (B Gap).

Pinch

This is a move where a defensive player moves inside.  For instance, in a Stunt, a defensive tackle may pinch or move inside, changing from a 3-technique to a 1-technique.

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