After my players have learned base block destruction, I go on to teach them how to defeat a reach block.
With reach blocks, the offensive lineman will try to get to the outside shoulder of the defensive lineman and “hook” them, cutting them off from the rest of the play. In a head-up position, the offensive linemen will sometimes pass up the defensive lineman they are lined up against and go to a linebacker and the next offensive lineman will overtake them.
The way I teach my defensive linemen to beat the block is to reach the offensive lineman back by pushing with the outside hand and pulling with the inside hand and pushing the offensive lineman vertically.
You have to get them pushing vertical because if they don’t and they just keep running and stringing out the play, it gives the running back a chance to think and make a play up the field. Pushing vertical helps the defensive lineman shut down the play and it forces the back to cut back to the opposite direction, giving your help time to get to the play.
I begin teaching my defensive linemen how to beat the block by having them in a pre-fit position.
I will progress from there to a three-point stance once they understand what I want with their hands and hips. The following drills are some of the drills I use to prepare them for this type of block.
Pre-Fit vs. the Reach Block
In this drill, you will simulate getting reached from a fitted position.
To start the drill, the defensive linemen will pair up. One will be designated as the offensive/defensive lineman. At your command, the player that is acting as the offensive lineman will begin to reach the defensive lineman. They will work on reaching them back, getting vertical, and performing an escape move.
This drill can be done with or without pads. I would advise using dummies of some sort if you are doing this without pads but you can even do the pre-fit drill as long as your players have a jersey on.
- Pair up defensive linemen.
- One will be the offensive linemen and one will be the defensive lineman.
- On the coach’s command, the offensive lineman will try to reach the defensive lineman.
- The defensive lineman will reach the offensive lineman back and will perform an escape move.
- Be good with your hands (inside hand: pull, outside hand: push)
- Press vertical. Don’t string things out too much.
- Violent escape move
- Hot feet.
Pre-Fit the Reach Block from a Defeated Position
This drill will work the same except you will start your defensive linemen from an already defeated position.
This is a great drill for teams that run a lot of outside zone or for if you run a lot of head up techniques with your defensive linemen. You will start with your players in the pre-fit position. The offensive linemen will already have reached the defensive lineman on their outside shoulder.
On the command by the coach, the offensive lineman will keep reaching the defensive lineman and will try to hook them and cut them off from where the play is going. The defensive lineman will work vertical and reach the offensive lineman back pushing with the outside hand and pulling with the inside hand.
Make sure that they finish with an escape move. This drill can be performed with or without pads. I’d advise using a hitting dummy or have players wear a jersey when doing this drill without pads so that they can work hand placement.
- Pair of with another lineman
- One will act as the offensive lineman and one will be the defensive lineman.
- The offensive lineman will start the drill in a position of advantage where they already have the defensive lineman reached.
- The coach will start the drill verbally and the offensive lineman will continue to reach the defensive lineman.
- The defensive lineman will fight back against the reach block; reaching them back and pressing vertically.
- Finish with an escape move.
- Active feet
- Work vertical. Don’t string out too far.
- Push and pull with your hands correctly.
- Violent escape move.
Defeat the Reach Block from a 3-Point Stance
This drill is the next step in the line of working against the reach block. You will need to move the defensive into their designated positions.
The coach will be in the middle to snap or simulate the snap of the ball. On the snap, the offensive lineman will try to reach the defensive lineman. The defensive lineman will take their first steps, read the block, and will reach the offensive lineman back. They will need to remember to press vertically and finish with an escape move.
- Get defensive linemen into their designated position group lines (ends, noses, tackles, etc.).
- The first group of defensive linemen will be out against designated offensive linemen.
- On the snap of the football, the offensive linemen will reach the defensive lineman.
- The defensive lineman will reach the defensive back, pressing vertical.
- They will push with the outside arm and pull with the inside arm.
- The defensive lineman will finish with an escape move.
- Trigger the football.
- Come out of 3-point stance low.
- Violent hands and escape move (rip, swim/club/throw)
Drilling reach block destruction needs to happen early in your teaching because zone blocking is so prominent. After base block destruction, this is a natural follow-up.
This article was originally published in Headsets: Volume 1, Issue 11.