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Field Goal and Extra Point Protection
Field goal and extra point protection is designed to handle pressure up the middle, which is the area of greatest concern. While edge rushers occasionally pressure a kick, the route is generally too long for them to get there in time if the operation is efficient. Linemen are responsible for protecting their inside gap, while ends and wings have slightly different responsibilities due to their location.
Unlike running or passing plays, protection on field goals and extra points is designed to create a pocket for the kicker and holder for an incredibly short window of time. At the college level, snap-to-kick target times are below 1.3 seconds, while at the NFL level, snap-to-kick times should be under 1.2 seconds.
The greatest threat to a kick being blocked comes right up the middle. Edge rushers have to cover nearly nine yards in order to get a hand on the ball, while rushers up the middle need only to push one to two yards back into the backfield to be effective when jumping vertically. Thus, standard blocking for field goals and extra points is very simple:
From tackle to tackle, linemen focus exclusively on sealing interior gaps. The standard blocking technique for field goal and extra point protection is for a lineman to step down with his inside foot overlapping the outside foot of the player inside of him. The outside foot of all linemen should remain planted to avoid opening any gaps on the interior of the formation.
Ends have the greatest amount of responsibility on the line, as there is a 45-degree angle between them and the wings outside of them, which presents an opportunity for rushers. Many teams employ what is known as a “rocker” technique, in which the end will first punch the inside gap using the same technique as the other lineman before rotating their outside foot back slightly in order to seal the outside gap immediately after.
Wings utilize a completely different technique than the rest of the line. They will maintain position on their inside foot in order to allow the end’s rocker move to close that gap. Wings then shift outside to lengthen the route an edge rusher must take, rather than trying to square up the edge rusher and take them on directly. Successful protection can be seen in the still below:
Circled in red are examples of the overlap technique employed by the interior linemen of the Pittsburgh Steelers. This is a textbook example of field goal and extra point protection.
Because of the the wider hash marks in college football, teams often employ “tackle-over” formations. The wider hash marks steepen the angle of the kick, and the target is now between the traditional location of the guard and tackle. In order to keep the inside edge rusher at a safe distance, teams often move the outside guard to the opposite side of the center, creating an overloaded line:
This allows a highly-angled kick to have the same level of protection as one down the middle. It is typically employed when the line of scrimmage is inside the 10-yard line, as kicks from greater distance do not require the additional protection inside due to the lesser angle.
Chuck Zodda wrote this entry. Follow Chuck on Twitter @ITP_ChuckZ.
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All video and images courtesy NFL Game Pass.