ITP Glossary: Reach Block

Football is littered with specialized terminology. From kickoff to 5 technique, 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.

Reach Block

A block used by an offensive lineman in the play-side gap that attempts to gain outside leverage on a defender. Often used on outside run plays, an effective reach block locks out an opponent, delaying or, ideally, sealing off pursuit from behind.

The aiming point on a reach block is normally the outside / play-side shoulder of the defender. A blocker’s first step will be toward the defender’s outside leg followed by a second step that brings the blocker’s inside arm into and up through the defender’s outside number. By the third step, the blocker will use his outside hand to latch onto the defender’s outside armpit and place his helmet outside the shoulder of the defender, bringing his hips across the target in order to square up and continue to work the block upfield.

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St. Louis Rams right guard Rodger Saffold (#76) executes a reach block on Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Stephon Tuitt (#91) while left tackle Greg Robinson (#73), left guard Jamon Brown (#68) and center Tim Barnes (#61) execute cut blocks simultaneously, bringing three defenders to the turf.

Tuitt lines up in a 3 technique on this play, between Saffold and RT Rob Havenstein. The guard shows quickness off the snap, driving his body to the outside by pushing off his left leg, and getting his helmet to the outside shoulder of the defender:

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From there, Saffold uses his foot quickness and play strength to work his hips across Tuitt, completing the fit of the reach block. 

He does, however, stop moving his feet, allowing Tuitt back into his gap, thus showing the importance of continuing to work the reach block upfield past the whistle. In this case, the ball carrier has already hit the crease and avoids Tuitt’s grasp. Because of Saffold’s initial efforts, Havenstein is free to block the DE, opening up the huge hole for the RB:NFLPreview5SDPlay2Still3

All Reach

San Francisco 49ers tight ends Vernon Davis (#85) and Garrett Celek (#88), and guards Alex Boone (#75) and Jordan Devey (#65), all execute reach blocks, getting to the playside (left) shoulders of the defenders and walling them off to the right:


That sequence of reach blocks frees up tackles Joe Staley (#74) and Erik Pears (#71), and center Marcus Martin (#66) to get into the second level and block the linebackers. No one has to use brute strength to shove his man off his spot, but they all move quickly so the run can develop. Running back Carlos Hyde (#28) follows the blocking and picks up a 9-yard gain.

Defeating A Reach Block

Jordan Phillips of the Oklahoma Sooners beats the adjacent left guard on the attempted reach block with speed and active hands:

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Firing out quickly from a four-point stance, the nose tackle defeats the reach block with great burst off the line of scrimmage and snatches the ball carrier with one arm before spinning him down to the ground like a top.

The ability of a defender to quickly penetrate the play-side gap can defeat the reach block, disrupting the mesh point of the handoff and/or eliminating many of the bounce, bang, bend options for a ball carrier.

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Brian Filipiak & Mark Schofield  & Dave Archibald contributed to this entry. Follow Dave on Twitter @davearchie. Follow Brian on Twitter @Brian_FilipiakFollow Mark on Twitter @MarkSchofield.

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