Mukwonago Defensive Line Block Destruction Progression

While it is becoming more and more “sexy” to talk coverage and pass rush, we all know if you don’t stop the run you don’t win football games, and stopping the run at any level starts with the guys up front. This includes stance, get-offs, one-on-one block destruction and two-on-one block destruction. Our defensive line techniques must accomplish one of three objectives; having a defensive lineman make a tackle at or behind the LOS, making a play bounce so our perimeter can tackle a horizontal runner, or eating up blocking schemes so our ILBs can see and fill windows unblocked.

Our goal is to teach concepts that relate to any opponents’ run scheme from gun read to wing-t and everything in-between. This allows us to teach a few techniques and master them, so we are not putting in “the defense of week.” What follows are a collection of drills and techniques that we use at Mukwonago to stop the run by our defensive linemen thus making teams one dimensional.

We put all run blocks into two categories:

  1. Attack blocks
  2. Escape blocks

Attack blocks are any blocks that our read key attacks us with – reach, base or zone, high wall (turnout), drive block, true DBL team. The other blocks, veer, scoop, arc, pull are escape blocks. We teach our defensive linemen base rules to handle an attack or an escape scheme, which should carry over to many of the individual blocks within that category. Let’s take a look at attack blocks using some examples.

We will take on all attack blocks with a stuff technique. We are a multiple front defense, but all a stuff technique tells us is that we are responsible for the gap we aligned in or are slanting to. Again, a stuff technique is triggered by attack blocks. Stuff technique is first taught with our hit drill (Diagram 1). We start from our knees and attack the nearside of the far number and the arm pit to our gap. Our elbows are in, thumbs are up and we are hitting our aiming point while bring our hips with us. We get three reps a piece from each shade.

From there we will take the stuff technique and work on getting off the ball and knocking all attack blocks backwards. Again, from a reach to a drive block, we want to take the fight to the offensive linemen and knock them back as to play on their side of the LOS. One set of drills we do daily is our “pit drills” (see Diagram 2); have the defensive linemen partner up and face each other with a crash pit behind them. The coach will then give the players replicating offensive linemen an attack block to execute, the defensive linemen must recognize that his read key is attacking him and perform his stuff technique, driving attacking OL men into the pad. The key to this drill is two hard steps by the OL and then the player on offense allows the defender to knock him back on to the pad. Great for multiple purposes, but most importantly it teaches taking on a one-on-one attack blocks by reestablishing the LOS and controlling our gap with our stuff technique – you can do this from slanting or from normal alignment and use it for any attack style block. 

Diagram 2

The above screen shot shows us defeating a zone base block by fighting pressure with pressure getting the offensive linemen’s shoulders back to parallel, keeping our head in our gap and then finishing the drill by driving the player back into the crash pads. We are a little too high as a group in the above shot; one variation is to incorporate your chutes into the pit drills.

After we work the pit, we will work one-on-one attack blocks and then two-on-one attack blocks with our read drills. This is very similar to the way everyone in the country does this. The key for us is that we just make sure we are consistent in rules for all attack blocks. Let’s get into how we would defeat the following blocks, again since they are attack blocks we know the following; use stuff technique as described above, keep face in our gap and fight pressure with pressure.

Reach Block: Extend with play side arm while making sure your play side hip and helmet are in your gap while attacking downhill (*Note: in reach away, we will keep our nose backside because that is his gap, do not start changing rules) ripping off when we start to get our shoulders turned. We work this at least twice a week.

Zone Block: In a one-on-one zone block, we want to become 1.5 players which means we want to use our stuff technique while forcing the offensive lineman back into his gap, we do not want to widen and create creases with the OL; we now have taken care of our gap and tried to close the inside gap by at least a half to help our LBs. This is where the term 1.5 player comes from.

Double Team: One of the most popular attack blocks we see is a straight double to our LBs. The best way to defeat a double team is to change the levels of the linemen trying to double. If they are not on the same level, they cannot double our defense linemen. This is why we work on get-off and taking linemen back and playing on their side of LOS (pit drill). If we cannot change the level on a straight double-team, we will hold our ground and take two for one. Many times that means we will post with our inside knee and drop making sure the LOS has not been given up and we have taken 2-for-1. Many defensive coaches will tell you dropping is a loss, to us if we can keep our backers free and eat up two blockers we win.

We feel that if we follow our “stuff” rules we can quickly teach and then rep all year how to defeat attack blocks by the offensive line (reach, turn out, zone base, straight double and anything else that would fit in that category). By being consistent in defeating blocks, our linebackers know what is happening up front and can work with our big guys up front to cancel gaps. The same is true when defeating escape blocks.

Defeating Escape Blocks: 

An escape block to us is when the linemen we are aligned on or slanting to does not block us. These would include the following blocks as stated above; veer, pull, arc, scoop or any release to second level. We defeat all escapes by using the term squeezing. Now as a coach, I can use the terms “stuff” and “squeeze” and our DL knows what I am talking about – limited common verbiage. When we squeeze, we want hands on the lineman that is escaping us and squeeze the air out of any running lanes. Many times an escape block will make a C gap player a B gap player. Since we are consistent in our teaching, our second level can work a gap exchange when they see a squeeze performed by our DL.  Again, a squeeze block is triggered by an escape block.

Veer Block:

Any inside release block to either double another defensive lineman or getting to second level we want to get hands on with our inside hand on the breast plate and outside hand on the hip. We are working to knock the veer release off course and look inside to spill any power, trap, kick out or tackle any back on midline, veer, etc. We love to go back to the pit drill (Diagram 6) to work against the veer block. As before, we will partner up and as the designated offensive linemen veer down, the defensive line will squeeze and get to heal level. The pit works great here because if we come too far up field the defensive linemen will run in to our crash pad.

This a good look at the initial contact phase of the drill. You can see we are aiming for the chest and the hip. We are also trying to keep our outside should as square as possible so we do not squeeze ourselves out of the play. After two steps the defender will redirect down the line of scrimmage in front of the pad. Again, if they run into the pad we have gotten too deep. Diagram 7 shows this in game action. Again, all escape blocks we try to get hands on and redirect offensive linemen.

Diagram 7

In this shot we see or DT squeezing the OG down while looking for inside kick out, our OLB is also squeezing, but he needs to get hands on the OT and not over step as he is here. This is also a good look at when we can squeeze veer blocks we end up with a gap exchange, as #47 our MLB will overlap the A, B, and C gap and tackle a RB running towards the sideline, when the play shown is a power counter, meant to hit in the A to B gap.

When taking on a kick out (part of the escape run block destruction), we work to come under (wrong arm) and get vertical right way. If we don’t, we will get logged or the back may jump cut around us. We want to squeeze the air out and make the back “run the hump” and redirect. We do a couple of drills for this, the one we like the best is a bag drill with a kick out (see Diagram 8).

Diagram 8

Bag Drill Explanation:

  • Linemen will shuffle, run or whatever footwork you want them to do over 4 bags.
  • After reaching the end of the fourth bag linemen will redirect as if attacking a kick out block (squeezing the air out of the gaps).
  • A coach will attack them with a blocking shield the player must come under and then pop his hip to get vertical to a cone 2 feet past the coach’s block.

Here is a good look at a defensive lineman coming under and getting vertical after squeezing and taking on a kick out block, you can also see our back side end squeezing a veer release and our nose stuffing an attack base block.

ARC Release:

Arc release blocks are tough but since they fall in the category of a release block we will get a hand on and then redirect down the LOS looking for a kick out block to come under or a back to show up. We drill this in half line and two-on-one reads.

Note: It is important that our end in this 7-tech gets hands on to disrupt and to make sure it is not a reach – he must then redirect and squeeze down the LOS.

Pull:

When the offensive linemen we are aligned on or slanting to pulls treat that as a release block. Rules are basically the same. We want to get hands on, squeeze down the line while following the puller trying to knock him off course. We also have to understand that we are going to either get cut blocked from the outside or down blocked from the inside. We will come down the LOS (not across the face of a down block as it would break our rules). We drill this in 2-on-1 periods.

Scoop:

A true scoop block on the B/S of zone or even the front side of stretch is a little bit of a hybrid block as it could be called an attack or release. We treat it as a release block since normally the offensive lineman we are reading is getting a piece of us but trying to get to second level while an adjacent lineman is trying overtake us. Again, we follow our release block rules – get hands on hip and breast plate the best we can, but on a scoop we do not squeeze, we spine. Spine technique is something we stole from former UW-Madison and current Arkansas defensive line coach Charlie Partridge (one of the best in the business). Allow me to explain the technique and show you how we rep it (see Diagram 11). Once we get our hands on the scooping OL men we want to keep him from working to our backers and change his level to prevent the overtake from the adjacent offensive linemen. Once hands get on the hip and breast plate (many times it is hip and shoulder), we want to extend, run our feet and work through the “spine” of the offensive lineman. We must knock him back, radically altering his course and get our hips and face in front of the lineman coming to overtake us.

Diagram 11

In this diagram, you can see the defensive lineman working through the scooping offensive linemen, grabbing cloth and working his spine technique. We are attempting to knock off the scooper and get in-between the two linemen working together. Again, by changing levels it becomes hard for the OL men working to overtake to get there. We are now in-between and protecting our second level.

To see more of Coach Iverson’s concepts in action and how he executes the drills discussed in this piece, click on the video links below. 

As you can see by using two terms (attack and release) you can categorize all run blocks and by using simple buzz words (stuff, squeeze, spine) you can teach a lot, cut down verbiage, maximize reps, communicate better, and coach on the run. Hopefully some of the drills and techniques will help your defensive line destroy run blocking schemes more effectively.

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