ITP Glossary: Down Block

Football is littered with specialized terminology. From punt gunner to climbing the pocket, commentators rarely get to explain everything you need to know before the next play. Inside The Pylon’s glossary was developed to give fans a deeper understanding of the game through clear explanations, as well as image and video examples. Please contact us with any terms or phrases you’d like to know more about.

Down Block

A block used by an offensive lineman that attempts to drive a defender laterally down the line of scrimmage toward the center. The down, or angle, block aims to take advantage of the offensive lineman’s leverage over a defender positioned to the inside of him. By displacing or pinning a defender inside with the down block, other blockers and the ball carrier can then flow outside of the sealed off defender. The down block is commonly used in power-running / gap-blocking schemes, often accompanied by a kick out block to create a running lane for the ball carrier.

When a center executes a down block, which can be to the left or right depending on the play-side / direction of the run, it is often referred to as blocking back.

The mechanics of a down block may vary based on the technique and particular assignment that a defender has within a defense. Here is one example we’ll break down in detail later:
Patriots Down Block

According to the book  “Complete Offensive Line” by Florida State offensive line coach Rick Trickett, an offensive lineman will approach a one-gap penetrating defender with a short angle step with his inside foot followed by a second and third step that squares the blocker toward his aiming point. At contact, the offensive lineman will place his face-mask between the outside shoulder and neck of the defender and his inside hand on the numbers. As he continues to fit into the block, the offensive lineman will stab his outside hand under the defender’s outside armpit/shoulder and position his near hip to the middle of the defender’s body. He will then drive his feet and stay low throughout the block.

The offensive lineman’s approach on a down block against a two-gap or read defender, who is more likely to move laterally toward the ball off the snap, will emphasize staying slightly squarer to the line of scrimmage rather than the target. Otherwise, most of the mechanics of the down block remain the same through the contact, fit and drive process.

In the following play, the New York Jets left guard and right tackle attempt down blocks on Washington’s defensive tackles:

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With the right guard pulling, right tackle Breno Giacomini (#68) uses the down block to prevent the 3 technique defensive tackle Jason Hatcher (#97) from penetrating the backfield. The blocker exhibits good head and hand placement on the fit and walls off the defender.

On the backside of the play, left guard James Carpenter (#77) also attempts to down block the shaded nose tackle Chris Baker (#92). However, the blocker’s low helmet placement causes him to lose sight of his target. Carpenter also fails to use his arms/hands to latch onto Baker, who moves laterally down the line toward the ball. The guard loses his balance and falls to the ground. Although unable to corral the defender, the down block attempt does allow center Nick Mangold (#74) to hit the second level off the snap.

The next play is a one-back power run executed by the Patriots against the Indianapolis Colts, in which the center and left guard work the angle block:

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Center Ryan Wendell (#62) fills the place of the pulling right guard by blocking down against the the back-side defensive end Arthur Jones (#97). Although unable to stay low through the drive, the blocker does enough to impede the lateral progress of the defender.

With the center taking on the 2 technique, left guard Dan Connolly (#63) must down block the 1 technique nose tackle Josh Chapman (#96). The blocker displays good helmet placement, keeping his head up through contact, and places his outside arm/hand on the defenders outside shoulder to gain control. Connolly finishes the block to the ground.

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Brian Filipiak wrote this entry. Follow Brian on Twitter @Brian_Filipiak

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