Itâ€™s a slow day here at work and slow for NFL news on the PPO so I thought I would take some time and do some research on the â€œZone Blocking Schemeâ€ to see if our OL are the right fit for that scheme.
First I wanted to figure out what the â€œZone Blocking Schemeâ€ really was and how it differed from the traditional blocking schemes used by most NFL teams.
I found out that the core of the zone-blocking scheme starts up front, with the lineman. The main goal of the zone blocking scheme is to block an area instead of just a man. It starts by two adjacent linemen coming to the play side and double teaming the defensive lineman, at the point of attack. This allows the lineman to be aggressive in case of a pinch or a stunt.
When the original defensive lineman is neutralized, the lineman can then move to the next level and engage the linebacker. The lineman that moves to the next level depends on where the pressure is coming from. If the linebacker is coming from the outside, the outside blocker will break off and engage the linebacker. This creates holes at different levels for the running back to go through. This allows the back to make a cut and get up field quickly.
The zone blocking scheme requires a different type of lineman to execute this system. Size and strength are secondary, while athleticism and awareness are paramount. A zone blocking lineman must be able to move expeditiously to the next level and engage lineman, instead of being engaged. Football knowledge and awareness are important in order to know where to go, and who to engage.
The zone blocking scheme also requires different breed of running back. Speed is not a necessity. More emphasis is put on vision and patience. The running back must have the patience to wait for the hole to open, and then the vision to see the hole in the next level. Explosion and cutback ability are also very important in this scheme. Once the back sees the hole open up, the back must cut into the lane and get north and south very quickly. This running system allows backs to get into the second level and then the back's natural athleticism can take over.
Another benefit of the zone blocking scheme that seemed to crop up throughout the articles I read was the fact that the Zone blocking is a system that changes little from week to week making it easier for teams to game plan for upcoming games.
O.K. now that Iâ€™ve figured out what the scheme is what kindof
OL are required to execute/run it.
To help with this, I found that most teams, when looking for players to fit the scheme, pay attention to two workout numbers: the short shuttle and 3 cone drills.
These two numbers are pretty good indicators of how fast, agile and/or athletic linemen will be.
With that said, I went to ESPN to get our roster as it stands today (probably missed somebody
;D). According to ESPN here is what we have to work with: (Had to google each individual player for thier workout times).
Matt Birk, C, 6-4, 309 lbs,
4.18 short shuttle and 7.22 three-cone drill
Ryan Cook, C, 6-6, 328 lbs, 4.44 short shuttle and 7.26 three-cone drill
Cullen Loeffler, C, 6-5, 241 lbs, 4.66 short shuttle and a 7.77 three-cone drill
Marcus Johnson, OT, 6-6, 321 lbs, 4.22 short shuttle and a 6.93 three-cone drill
Bryant McKinnie, OT, 6-8, 335 lbs, 4.40 short shuttle and a 7.35 seconds three-cone drill
Anthony Herrera, OG, 6-2, 315 lbs, Because he had a bad ankle he didnâ€™t run in the SS or 3 Cone. His his 40 times were 5.31 and 5.38 and 0-yard dash in 1.87.
Artis Hicks, OG, 6-4, 335
lbs, 4.31 short shuttle and 7.28 three-cone drill
Steve Hutchinson, OG, 6-5, 313 lbs.
Couldnâ€™t find any times on him.
I looked but couldnâ€™t find anything that said what defined a good short shuttle and three-cone drill time so I decided to take a look at the OL stats for the team that is so closely associated with the Zone-blocking scheme.
According to ESPN here is what the Broncoâ€™s have. (Used same link)
Nalen, C, 6-3, a 4.22 short shuttle and a 6.93 three-cone drill.
6-4, 300 lbs 4.38 in the short shuttle, a 7.38 in the cone drill
Meadows, OT, 6-5, 290 lbs, a 4.33 in the short shuttle and a 7.48 in the three-cone drill.
6-8, 305 lbs, 4.39 short shuttle and 7.61 three-cone drill
Foster, OT, 6-5, 338 lbs, a 4.53 short shuttle, 7.47 three-cone drill
Carlisle, OG, 6-5, 295 lbs, Couldnâ€™t find a short shuttle time but he did the three-cone drill in 7.34 seconds
Hamilton, OG, 6-4, 283 lbs, Couldnâ€™t find any times.
Kuper, OG, 6-4, 302 lbs, a 4.44 short shuttle and 7.26 three-cone drill
Probably not an exact science but our guys in almost all cases are bigger (poundage) and faster in their times.
So technically our guys fit the mold, with the exception of weighing more than "Normal", to run the zone blocking scheme even though they are a bit heavier because of their speed/athleticism.
On a side note I am providing the following link for two reasons.
1. Gives you stat guys some pretty interesting data that you can also use to look at production between the two different schemes.
2. I really liked the following quote as it articulated what has been discussed in multiple threads on this site about how long should B-chill and his coaching staff have to start producing and our OL to gel.
The "Denver system" isnâ€™t a magical pill that a team can swallow to generate 1500 yard rushers with consistency, but obviously it has been successful for running backs in Denver. One reason it has not been widely adopted is time: it takes time to teach, time to master, and time to get the smaller, more agile offensive linemen that the system requires. If you take zone blocking and try to implement it with 340 pound behemoths, you will probably fail, and for better or for worse, 340 pound behemoths are what youâ€™ll find on a typical offensive line in the NFL.
In closing I was suprised to find out (contrary to my belief otherwise) that we do have some â€œbehemothsâ€ on our line that really do fit the "Zone-blocking Scheme".