When I begin to teach my defensive linemen how to defeat the different types of blocks they will see in their careers, I always start with the base block.
In my opinion, it is a good starting point because the block is very straightforward. Most of the time, the offensive lineman will attempt to drive the opposing defensive lineman straight back or out, depending on the play. And remember, stopping the run is a top priority!
The Base it Back Progression
In order to beat the block, the defensive lineman will first need to base it back.
Basically, they will want to drive them back into the gap they came from and secure the gap they are defending. Once they see the ball carrier make his move, they will use an escape move and pursue the football.
- Fire off out of stance on ball movement.
- Recognize the base block and base the offensive lineman/blocker back into their gap.
- See the ball carrier and finish with an escape move down the line, pursuing the ball.
Drills Versus the Base Block
- Quick board drill
- Pre-fit vs base block drill
- Beat the block drill
1. Quick Board Drill
This drill can be used to work on stance and start skills as well in your spring/summer/preseason practices.
I would use this drill only on pad days with full contact. This drill is great against teams that will give you a lot of one on one aggressive blocks where you know that your defensive linemen will need to be aggressive with getting off the ball and getting their hands on the offensive lineman.
I’d give my defensive linemen about two reps in this drill to set the tone for practice and get them being aggressive out of their stance. This is not a drill you do a thousand times in practice.
- Have defensive linemen pair up.
- On the snap of the ball they will both fire off and try to aggressively shoot their hands and hips into their partner and get them off balance.
- Blow the whistle quickly to end the drill. You are mainly focusing on who can win with their hands and hips.
- Key the ball movement, not cadence.
- Get separation from the lineman coming at you.
- Make sure you don’t stand straight up after the snap of the ball.
2. Pre-fit Base Block Destruction
This drill is a good starting point for breaking down the way to beat a base block.
This drill can be performed with or without pads. If you are doing this drill without pads, you will need bags for the offensive lineman to hold though.
The purpose of this drill is for the defensive lineman to get extension on the offensive lineman blocking him, keep their feet active, secure their gap, and rip off the block after the ball carrier makes a move.
- Defensive linemen will get in pods of three. One defender, one offensive lineman, one ball carrier.
- The defensive lineman will prefit with the offensive lineman. If in an even technique, he will have his hands already in the chest plate of the offensive lineman. If in an odd technique, he will have his inside hand on the V of the neck and the outside hand on the outside shoulder.
- The coach will start the drill by verbal command, clapping, or blowing the whistle. On the start of the drill, the defensive lineman will get extension while the offensive lineman tries to drive them back. The defensive lineman will get his feet hot and secure his gap.
- Once the gap is secured, the ball carrier will choose which way to go. You can let them have freedom to choose or tell them where to step. The defensive lineman will then use an escape move and fit to where the ball carrier is going.
- Violent hands and good extension. Don’t keep the blocker close to you.
- Stay in a low, athletic position. If you stand up you don’t have any control.
- Take care of your gap first. Put the offensive lineman back into his gap (base it back).
- Don’t escape too early. Make sure the ball carrier chooses where he is going before you get off the block. If you guess wrong and escape too early into the wrong gap, that can hurt the defense.
- Finish with a great escape move. Make sure you get off the block.
3. Beat the Block Drill
This drill is pretty straightforward. You will be repping base blocks from a three-point stance and will have them try to beat the offensive lineman blocking them on the snap of the ball.
I usually do two lines with a defensive lineman, a blocker, and me in between to snap the ball. I try to snap a ball over using a cadence in order to prevent false snap counts that try to get defenders to jump offsides.
If you have the numbers, you could do a full offensive line in order for your defensive linemen to get a feel for where they line up but, where I coach, I rarely have those kinds of numbers.
- Have players get into two lines.
- Each line will have a defensive lineman, an offensive lineman and a coach in the middle snapping the ball.
- On the snap of the ball, the offensive lineman will attempt to perform a base block on the defensive lineman.
- The defensive lineman will base the offensive lineman back into his gap, securing the gap he is responsible for.
- After securing the gap, the defensive lineman will perform an escape move and fit his gap.
- Get off the ball low and with good steps.
- Beat the block before escaping. Don’t guess
- Don’t go too far upfield.
When you’re starting to teach your defensive linemen the basics of the position, you start with their stance and start, but quickly you’ll find yourself here.
Use these three base block destruction drills with new linemen or veterans, and you’ll give your players a solid foundation. After this, you can start working on other techniques like reach block destruction. Along with other drills for your defense, these should be a part of your foundational teaching every year.
This article was originally published in Headsets: Volume 1, Issue 10.