"Fundamental to any good passing attack is the work of the offensive linemen in pass protection. The techniques involved in pass protection are varied and are very important to the success of any team." -Lavell Edwards, retired BYU Football Coach
The forward pass has become football's dimensions but this is still a contest of brute strength and power so a strong running game is still the difference between victory and defeat.
The passing game though has to have perfect pass protection to be successful. When I started college football they just issued the rule change that allowed you to use your hands when pass blocking. As an offensive guard I learned quickly that you need to have a strong upper body to push those big "D" Tackles off of you and I also noticed you better have some very quick hands to fight them off too.
So, it wasn't long after that I started taking 1-on-1 lessons in Martial arts to get balanced and of course to have fast hands that can fend off those defensive linemen.
Martial Arts Pass Protection Techniques
In football you must defeat your opponent with the most efficient use of the body and your bodies' natural weapons. To accomplish dominant pass blocking, martial arts training are a must. Pass protection and martial arts hand drills may be categorized to:
- Stance and set
- Center of gravity
- Blow delivery
Each of these components develops the pass protector.
This style of training, utilizing martial arts for football, is not a new concept. Back in 1978 Bob Ward, the Dallas Cowboys strength coach, implemented martial arts training within its strength and conditioning program. I also met with the head strength coach of Rice University at a NSCA Texas State Clinic and he was a black belt who implemented hand drills for his offensive lineman.
Certain Martial Arts training methods go hand in hand with pass protection. Combat martial arts combines mental, physical, and balance training. Some of these components are developing the center of gravity, hand-eye coordination, movement, and utilization of the hands of course, which are all necessary for the movements to pass blocking.
Kenpo: "Method of the Fist"
This method is a continuous, fluid attack and counterattack. When protecting the quarterback, the O-lineman must utilize these standards. Use his hands to separate and impede the pass rusher's progress.
Kenpo is a unique martial art having been founded several centuries ago in a Chinese Shaolin temple. Kenpo is an organized form of techniques and movements put into a format that could be broken down into levels for all students.
As an O-lineman you need to focus and develop hand-eye coordination, and focus on a target, which is usually the D-lineman's numbers.
Some striking techniques are; Lockouts, Blocking, Counters, Inside Blocks and the use of the Palm Heel. Using the Palm is known as "Jamming" or what I call plain old "punching!" Doing this usually stops the defender's charge. The Lockout technique will make you drive through the defender's body.
Stance And Set:
Proper Stance and Set begins effective pass protection. The angle and zone or area influence the development of successful pass blocking techniques. As an O-lineman you must maximize your body's stance, hands, feet and set. A balanced stance and set, characterized by an inside "post" foot and outside "kick" foot, insures the body's effectiveness.
Center Of Gravity:
Pass protection's most important aspect is body balance and equal weight distribution. An offensive lineman should never overextend his body. You'll instantly get beat if you do. I always see and lineman over extending, that's why they get beat in drills and on the field by a fast pass rusher.
Over-extension gives the D-lineman a distinct advantage and may result in a quarterback sack (If that happens, make sure you don't come to the sideline). Balance and not over-extending insures fluid motion, fast punch attacks, and counterattacks. Proper balance and keeping your feet moving insures best attack position and success.
Angles & Leverage:
This is my favorite. They always make comments about a lineman's height but a shorter O-lineman will have a greater advantage over a taller defender because of leverage.
As an O-lineman you must use proper angles for maximum hand explosiveness. The o-lineman also uses proper leverage to defeat an opponent. Explosive punching to leverage points on the defender allows the offensive lineman to apply constant force and pressure upon the defender.
Some Drills To Practice
The Leverage Drill develops balance, leverage, and center of gravity. Simulations of various pass rush techniques like the "Bull" Rush and "Jerk" are in this drill. The O-lineman "sets" and "Locks-Out" the defender.
The defender, working between two cones, jerks, pulls, and moves laterally to destroy the "O" lineman's leverage and balance. The O-lineman must not overextend. GREAT drill for both parties.
What I like to call the "Focus" Drill trains the O-Lineman to focus on a specific target of the defensive lineman, either his inside, middle, and/or outside of his shoulder pads and this helps develop hand-eye coordination. The Offensive Lineman's Focus and Target Concentration will be developed.
The defender holds a dummy, marked with an Outside, Middle, and Inside target. The offensive lineman focuses on each target individually. Focusing exclusively on the target, the offensive lineman "slides" or shuffles laterally to "cover" the defender watching the target at all times. The defender then moves within striking distance, and the O-lineman while maintaining his balance and not over extending "Jams" or strikes the target with both hands.
The Jam Drill trains the hands and forces the o-lineman to defeat the "Bull Rush" from the d-lineman. Three defenders, aligned two yards apart, carry shield dummies placed against their upper torsos. The "O" lineman aligns a couple yards away from the defenders holding the dummies. The o-lineman then sets, and gets his hands up.
The coach picks one defender at a time to charge the offensive lineman. To negate the charge, the "O" lineman "Jams" the defender. Striking with the Palm utilizing the "Lock-Out" striking through the inside portion of the dummy. Following the "Jam", the defender recoils back into set position sliding laterally to meet the next defender.
A D-linemen's pass rush techniques vary so as an O-Lineman your feet and hands should always be moving. Keep balanced, never, ever over extend and always use proper hand placement punching technique. Offensive linemen must implement martial arts hand-to-hand combat training to achieve superiority over his defensive counterpart. Down! Ready! Hit!