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Free Blocking Zone — A Review


Bobref
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The National Federation has changed the rule on low blocking in the free blocking zone. So, it may be useful to review that rule, just to get everyone current.

The free blocking zone (FBZ) is an area that extends laterally 4 yds. to either side of the snap, and 3 yds behind both the offensive and defensive lines of scrimmage. A player is considered to be in the FBZ if any part of his body is in the FBZ at the snap.

Blocking in the back is permitted in the FBZ when the following conditions are met:

  1. The block is by an offensive player
  2. The blocker is on the offensive line of scrimmage at the snap and within the FBZ
  3. The defender being blocked is in the FBZ at the snap
  4. The ball has not left the FBZ

Blocking below the waist is permitted in the FBZ when the following conditions are met:

  1. Both the players are in the FBZ at the snap
  2. Both the players are on their respective lines of scrimmage at the snap
  3. The block occurs in the FBZ immediately at the snap.

Important points:

Only offensive players can block in the back.

Either offensive or defensive players can block low.

Although offensive players can block in the back, and either side can block below the waist, no one can clip.

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Posted (edited)
On 3/27/2021 at 9:33 AM, Bobref said:

The National Federation has changed the rule on low blocking in the free blocking zone. So, it may be useful to review that rule, just to get everyone current.

The free blocking zone (FBZ) is an area that extends laterally 4 yds. to either side of the snap, and 3 yds behind both the offensive and defensive lines of scrimmage. A player is considered to be in the FBZ if any part of his body is in the FBZ at the snap.

Blocking in the back is permitted in the FBZ when the following conditions are met:

  1. The block is by an offensive player
  2. The blocker is on the offensive line of scrimmage at the snap and within the FBZ
  3. The defender being blocked is in the FBZ at the snap
  4. The ball has not left the FBZ

Blocking below the waist is permitted in the FBZ when the following conditions are met:

  1. Both the players are in the FBZ at the snap
  2. Both the players are on their respective lines of scrimmage at the snap
  3. The block occurs in the FBZ immediately at the snap.

Important points:

Only offensive players can block in the back.

Either offensive or defensive players can block low.

Although offensive players can block in the back, and either side can block below the waist, no one can clip.

Just an update on this rule change that came out of the presentation at the IFOA Clinic:

Since legal blocks below the waist must be “immediate” at the snap, a good rule of thumb is that if the low contact is initiated at the snap against a player either directly across the line or in your gap to either side, it qualifies as “immediate.” If the player initiating the contact has to reach farther than that, even if he goes right from the snap, the block can’t be considered “immediate.”

Coaches should be made aware of this interpretation, so that they can coach their offensive linemen accordingly.

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4 hours ago, Bobref said:

Just an update on this rule change that came out of the presentation at the IFOA Clinic:

Since legal blocks below the waist must be “immediate” at the snap, a good rule of thumb is that if the low contact is initiated at the snap against a player either directly across the line or in your gap to either side, it qualifies as “immediate.” If the player initiating the contact has to reach farther than that, even if he goes right from the snap, the block can’t be considered “immediate.”

Coaches should be made aware of this interpretation, so that they can coach their offensive linemen accordingly.

Should be very interesting for true, triple option teams.

Many teams have their linemen shoot out and bear crawl up to the 2nd level, which in turn, leads to "cut" blocks against LBs and cranked down safeties.  In my coaching days, I even saw these as clips.  Never once called.

In turn, I also saw many LBs "groundhog"/create a pile, in the hole.  Not taking the lead blocker on low, literally creating a pile.  Never once called.

Very tough to call, but not impossible.

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1 minute ago, DE said:

In turn, I also saw many LBs "groundhog"/create a pile, in the hole.  Not taking the lead blocker on low, literally creating a pile. 

This was always part of our pregame whenever we had a Lowell game. They would run that fullback ISO about 40 times, and the LB would try to cut the FB in the hole.

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33 minutes ago, Bobref said:

This was always part of our pregame whenever we had a Lowell game. They would run that fullback ISO about 40 times, and the LB would try to cut the FB in the hole.

Bingo.

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2 hours ago, Bobref said:

This was always part of our pregame whenever we had a Lowell game. They would run that fullback ISO about 40 times, and the LB would try to cut the FB in the hole.

In your pregame, who would you normally designate to look for the LB trying to cut the FB?

U or R?  It happens so fast, at times the U might get his cushion eaten up real quick.

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27 minutes ago, DE said:

In your pregame, who would you normally designate to look for the LB trying to cut the FB?

U or R?  It happens so fast, at times the U might get his cushion eaten up real quick.

Both.

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On 3/27/2021 at 10:33 AM, Bobref said:

The National Federation has changed the rule on low blocking in the free blocking zone. So, it may be useful to review that rule, just to get everyone current.

The free blocking zone (FBZ) is an area that extends laterally 4 yds. to either side of the snap, and 3 yds behind both the offensive and defensive lines of scrimmage. A player is considered to be in the FBZ if any part of his body is in the FBZ at the snap.

Blocking in the back is permitted in the FBZ when the following conditions are met:

  1. The block is by an offensive player
  2. The blocker is on the offensive line of scrimmage at the snap and within the FBZ
  3. The defender being blocked is in the FBZ at the snap
  4. The ball has not left the FBZ

Blocking below the waist is permitted in the FBZ when the following conditions are met:

  1. Both the players are in the FBZ at the snap
  2. Both the players are on their respective lines of scrimmage at the snap
  3. The block occurs in the FBZ immediately at the snap.

Important points:

Only offensive players can block in the back.

Either offensive or defensive players can block low.

Although offensive players can block in the back, and either side can block below the waist, no one can clip.

If I have this right, no more offensive tackles showing pass with a high hat and then cutting the rusher on 3 step drops, but an OT could still cut the inside leg of a backside 3 technique on a play away correct? 

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2 hours ago, Wedgebuster said:

If I have this right, no more offensive tackles showing pass with a high hat and then cutting the rusher on 3 step drops, but an OT could still cut the inside leg of a backside 3 technique on a play away correct? 

Translation, please.

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3 hours ago, Wedgebuster said:

If I have this right, no more offensive tackles showing pass with a high hat and then cutting the rusher on 3 step drops, but an OT could still cut the inside leg of a backside 3 technique on a play away correct? 

Sounds correct, as long as I am interpreting your description correctly.  Immediate, initial action are major keys in the free blocking zone.

Illegal Blocking----9.3.2 situation (d)

That is a tough, yet "doable" block by the OT on the 3 tech.  We always made sure that if the OT was going to cut the 3, the OG next to that OT, does NOT even touch that 3 tech.  We didn't want to be called for a "high/low".

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12 hours ago, DE said:

Sounds correct, as long as I am interpreting your description correctly.  Immediate, initial action are major keys in the free blocking zone.

Illegal Blocking----9.3.2 situation (d)

That is a tough, yet "doable" block by the OT on the 3 tech.  We always made sure that if the OT was going to cut the 3, the OG next to that OT, does NOT even touch that 3 tech.  We didn't want to be called for a "high/low".

Or - as football officials call it: Chop Block

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Sorry - work got in the way of my response. 

Yes.  Bob is correct.
Over the years, coaches have incorrectly identified blocks below the waiste as chop blocks.  The high/low block you described is the "classic" chop block.
Sometimes in our communications w/coaches, we experience tiny little misunderstandings between coach-speak and ref-speak.  No biggie!

🙂

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15 hours ago, DE said:

Sounds correct, as long as I am interpreting your description correctly.  Immediate, initial action are major keys in the free blocking zone.

Illegal Blocking----9.3.2 situation (d)

That is a tough, yet "doable" block by the OT on the 3 tech.  We always made sure that if the OT was going to cut the 3, the OG next to that OT, does NOT even touch that 3 tech.  We didn't want to be called for a "high/low".

My question is could that tackle cut on his 3rd step?  Is that "immediate"?

If it's a LT he would step with his right foot turning his belly button to the sideline, crossover with his left foot, and then make contact with his left shoulder to that DT's far thigh on his 3rd step.  At least that's how a lot of Wing-T or Flexbone coaches would coach that kid prior to this rule change.  Will they be able to continue to teach that backside cutoff block in this manner? 

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1 hour ago, Wedgebuster said:

My question is could that tackle cut on his 3rd step?  Is that "immediate"?

If it's a LT he would step with his right foot turning his belly button to the sideline, crossover with his left foot, and then make contact with his left shoulder to that DT's far thigh on his 3rd step.  At least that's how a lot of Wing-T or Flexbone coaches would coach that kid prior to this rule change.  Will they be able to continue to teach that backside cutoff block in this manner? 

Doesn’t sound “immediate” to me.

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58 minutes ago, Wedgebuster said:

My question is could that tackle cut on his 3rd step?  Is that "immediate"?

If it's a LT he would step with his right foot turning his belly button to the sideline, crossover with his left foot, and then make contact with his left shoulder to that DT's far thigh on his 3rd step.  At least that's how a lot of Wing-T or Flexbone coaches would coach that kid prior to this rule change.  Will they be able to continue to teach that backside cutoff block in this manner? 

I would say no, it is not immediate.  From my coaching days, the LT was taught, "1 thousand 1, 1 thousand 2", then cut.  That is not an immediate, initial action.

Taught to watch the entire block.  If we have to 2nd guess what we see, most times you will see no flag.  The LT's immediate, initial action is towards that 3, so I would say that is legal.

I hope this helps.  

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28 minutes ago, DE said:

From my coaching days, the LT was taught, "1 thousand 1, 1 thousand 2", then cut.

That is no different from an OL taking a pass block set, and then cutting. Foul.

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1 minute ago, Bobref said:

That is no different from an OL taking a pass block set, and then cutting. Foul.

We are saying the same exact thing.

2 minutes ago, Bobref said:

That is no different from an OL taking a pass block set, and then cutting. Foul.

The OP posed the question in coach/football speak.  Or at least I took it as that.  I have heard that language at every stop I coached at and every coach I spoke with.

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As with any rule, when interpreting it, start with the reason the rule was enacted. As part of its overall risk minimization strategy, the NF eliminated all low blocks except those that they deemed at low risk of injury. The reason for the FBZ initially, and this change requiring “immediate” contact, is that it was felt low blocks occurring before the parties could generate enough momentum to raise the incidence of leg injuries were an acceptable compromise that struck the right balance between offense and defense without causing serious injuries. Now, as the tolerance for risk gets even lower, and it has become clear that offenses don’t need the help, use of low blocks has been restricted further.

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I'm still confused.   A good O-Lineman is going to fun his feet thru the immediate cut any way.  So he is going to have 2-3 steps in the ground before he gets into the legs of the D-Lineman anyways.  The backside scoop block that I described is in my mind an "immediate action" and not nearly as dangerous as the fake pass set and then cut by an OT.  

 

How would you call the block demonstrated at the 12:00 minute mark of this clip?

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2 hours ago, Wedgebuster said:

I'm still confused.   A good O-Lineman is going to fun his feet thru the immediate cut any way.  So he is going to have 2-3 steps in the ground before he gets into the legs of the D-Lineman anyways.  The backside scoop block that I described is in my mind an "immediate action" and not nearly as dangerous as the fake pass set and then cut by an OT.  

 

How would you call the block demonstrated at the 12:00 minute mark of this clip?

At the 12:00 min. mark the game hasn’t started yet. Where is the block?

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47 minutes ago, Wedgebuster said:

Sorry, wrong link

Try this one

In my opinion, that is a foul. The guideline is if the player being contacted is not head up or in the blocker’s gap, the contact cannot be “immediate.” The defensive player here was a full man over from the blocker. 

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What will be interesting is how different officials make that call.  I think you're going to see a lot of coaching staffs in the Wing-T or Option communities continue to teach that technique and not get it called all year until they run into a certain crew.   Then its the classic conversation right?  "But Mr. Official, WE HAVEN'T HAD THAT CALLED ALL YEAR!" 

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