What Makes a Good Offensive Lineman In Football and How To Get There?

Table of Contents

In football’s grand, gritty universe, it’s a blend of cunning tactics, dexterous skill, and unyielding power. But let me tell you, ladies and gentlemen, nestled right in the epicenter of every victorious play, amidst every record-setting run or precise pass, stand the unsung heroes of the gridiron: our offensive linemen.

You see, these hard-nosed stalwarts form the veritable spinal column of any offensive squad. They’re the ones making holes big enough for a Mack truck for the ball carriers, and forming an impenetrable wall around the quarterback, keeping the hungry defense at bay. Yes, they’re the faceless few, striving in unity to breathe life into the coach’s playbook.

So, you might ask, “Brad, what ingredients go into the making of a standout offensive lineman?” What’s the blueprint for their positions, the nuts and bolts of their techniques, the hurdles they jump while charging down that line? And let’s say you want to wear those massive shoes – how does one prepare to elevate their game as an offensive lineman? Well, dear reader, you’re about to find out.

How To Be A Good Offensive Lineman

To be a good offensive lineman, one needs to have intelligence, toughness, work ethic, good character, and athletic ability. It is important to understand where you fit in the team’s offense and befriend the weight room to maintain size. Additionally, mastering footwork and pass-blocking are key techniques that can turn a mediocre lineman into an elite one.

The Positions and Responsibilities of the Offensive Line

Understanding the roles of offensive line players – the center, the guards, and the tackles – is fundamental for any football enthusiast. Each position is unique, with specific responsibilities vital for the team’s offensive strategies.

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The center is the fulcrum of the line, responsible for snapping the ball to the quarterback and blocking defensive linesmen, particularly the nose tackle or the middle linebacker. They’re the communicators, the field generals who make line calls and direct the offensive line.

Then we have the guards (left and right). They serve as the backbone of the line, trapping, pulling, double-teaming, and blocking defensive tackles and linebackers. They’re pivotal in the creation of running lanes and providing pass protection.

Lastly, the tackles (left and right) are the protectors. Their primary responsibility is to shield the quarterback’s blind side (left tackle) or strong side (right tackle), and block defensive ends or outside linebackers.

Think of them as the guardians of the fortress, with the quarterback being the king.

Let’s take a look at some notable names who’ve mastered these positions: For the center, think Mike Webster or Dwight Stephenson. For guards, names like John Hannah and Gene Upshaw spring to mind. As for the tackles, Anthony Munoz, Walter Jones, and Jonathan Ogden have written their names in the annals of NFL history.

The Fundamentals of Blocking

Blocking isn’t just about brute strength; it’s a technique, a fine art. It involves stance, footwork, hand placement, leverage, and, most importantly, drive.

Good blocking starts with a solid stance. Get your feet right, your balance steady, and your hands ready. Footwork is essential for maintaining balance and creating leverage. Proper hand placement helps control the defender, while the right leverage can keep the defensive player at bay. And, of course, the drive – the energy, the push – propels you forward.

And, as any good coach will tell you, the key to improving your blocking is practice. Drills like the mirror drill or the drive block drill can help fine-tune your technique.

You can follow our awesome Linebacker Drills article for a more in-depth guide and program.

Offensive Line Positions

Center (C)

The center is more than just the snapper of the ball. They’re the brains of the operation, making critical line calls. Agility, strength, leadership, and intelligence are the hallmarks of a good center. Think about Mike Webster, Dwight Stephenson, or Dermontti Dawson – true leaders on the field.

Left Guard & Right Guard

The guards, on the other hand, are the workhorses. They need to have power, balance, quickness, and coordination to handle their varied responsibilities. Picture the legendary John Hannah, Gene Upshaw, and Larry Allen in action – epitomes of these traits.

Left Tackle & Right Tackle

Tackles, the protectors of the quarterback, require a unique combination of size, speed, athleticism, and technique. Need examples? Look no further than Anthony Munoz, Walter Jones, or Jonathan Ogden.

Different Types of Offensive Line Blocks and When to Use Them

There’s more to blocking than meets the eye. Different situations call for different strategies – be it run blocking or pass blocking.

Run blocking usually requires power and aggression, whereas pass blocking demands patience and balance. The various blocks include zone blocking, gap blocking, pull blocking, base block, down block (back block), double teaming, and more.

Choosing the right block depends on the situation and the play called. For instance, pull blocking is effective for trap plays, while zone blocking works well for stretch runs.

Key Offensive Lineman Techniques

General Blocking Techniques

Every offensive lineman needs to know the secrets to improving blocking skills. Remember these five elements: eyes, hands, hips, feet, and voice.

  • Your eyes are the best asset on the field. Use them to locate your target and anticipate his moves. Never let your opponent out of your sight.
  • Your hands control your opponent. Aiming for the chest or shoulders can give you control and help steer them in the direction you want.
  • Your hips generate power. Like a spring, coiling and uncoiling, your hips give you the leverage you need to power through blocks.
  • Your feet maintain balance. They’re your anchor, adjusting to your opponent’s movements and keeping you steady.
  • Lastly, your voice is vital for communication. Relay your strategies and adjustments to your teammates to maintain the offensive line’s effectiveness.

Pass Blocking

Pass blocking is an art. Its aim? Keep the defender at bay, protecting the quarterback from any incoming sacks. There are three types of pass-blocking techniques:

  • Drop Back Pass Blocking (Vertical Set): This requires quick backpedaling and lateral movement to create a pocket for the quarterback.
  • Slide Pass Blocking (Horizontal Set): This involves moving sideways to engage with the defender and prevent them from reaching the quarterback.
  • Jump Pass Blocking (Quick Set): This is all about surprising the defender by quickly engaging them right after the snap.

Proper stance, footwork, hand placement, balance, and awareness are crucial to executing these techniques effectively.

Stance Improvement

A good stance for an offensive lineman is like a foundation for a building – essential for stability and reaction speed. A good stance involves feet shoulder-width apart, slightly bent knees, straight back, head up, relaxed arms, and an evenly distributed weight. You can assume this stance from a two-point (standing) or a three-point (one hand on the ground) position.

Mastering Footwork

Good footwork is an offensive lineman’s secret weapon. It allows you to move in any direction with smoothness and efficiency. There are several drills you can do to improve footwork:

  • Ladder Drills: Improve agility and coordination by stepping in and out of a ladder on the ground.
  • Cone Drills: Enhance speed and change of direction by navigating through cones arranged in various patterns.
  • Mirror Drills: Increase reaction time and lateral movement by mimicking a partner’s movements.

Leveraging Power

An offensive lineman needs power – the type that lets you dominate your opponent physically and mentally. You can develop this power through strength training:

Focus on compound exercises that work for multiple muscle groups simultaneously: squats, deadlifts, bench presses, overhead presses, and rows. Use weights that challenge you but still allow you to maintain good form.

Remember to incorporate explosive movements that mimic game situations: power cleans, box jumps, medicine ball throws, and sled pushes. These exercises help generate force rapidly, improving your power off the line. Aim for 3 to 5 sets of 5 to 8 reps per exercise.

How to Train as an Offensive Lineman

Physical Training for an Offensive Lineman

Training your body is critical to improving performance on the field. It enhances strength, speed, endurance, and flexibility and helps prevent injuries. Here are examples of training routines:

Strength Training

It’s a must for every lineman. You’re going to perform this routine three times per week on non-consecutive days.

Bench Press35
Overhead Press35
Bent-over Row35
Power Clean33

Speed Training

Speed isn’t just for wide receivers. Linemen need speed to outmaneuver their opponents. You’re going to perform this routine twice per week.

Sprint (10 yards)46
Sprint (20 yards)44
Sprint (40 yards)42
Shuttle Run (5 yards x4)41
Lateral Shuffle (10 yards x2)41
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Endurance Training

Long games require endurance. One endurance session per week will help keep you from tiring out.

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Run (5 minutes)1
Jog (10 minutes)1
Run (5 minutes)1
Jog (10 minutes)1

Remember, nutrition, hydration, and recovery are just as important as the training itself.

Mental Training for an Offensive Lineman

The mental aspect of the game is just as important as the physical. Confidence, focus, motivation, and resilience are key. Here are a few mental training techniques:

Visualization: Imagine executing assignments successfully in various scenarios.

Self-talk: Use positive affirmations to reinforce strengths and overcome weaknesses.

Goal setting: Set specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound goals.

Relaxation: Use breathing exercises or meditation to calm down when stressed or anxious.

The Attitude of an Offensive Lineman

Physical and Mental Toughness

As an offensive lineman, you’ll face plenty of stress, frustration, and failure. Mental toughness is the ability to cope with these challenges without losing confidence or focus.

To develop toughness:

  • Train hard and smart: Follow a program that challenges you physically and mentally, but listen to your body and avoid overtraining.
  • Embrace challenges: View obstacles as opportunities to learn and grow. Compete with yourself and others to improve your skills and confidence.
  • Stay positive: Focus on what you can control and ignore what you can’t. Use positive self-talk and visualization to boost your mood and performance.

What It Takes to Be a Great Lineman?

A great lineman has physical and mental skills, passion, dedication, and leadership qualities.

  • Passion: A great lineman loves the game and is always eager to learn and improve.
  • Dedication: A great lineman is committed to his team and his goals, even if it requires personal sacrifices.
  • Leadership: A great lineman leads by example and words, setting high standards for himself and his teammates.

offensive linemen before the snap

Life as an Offensive Lineman: Insights and Challenges

In my experience as a coach, the offensive linemen are often called the unsung heroes of the team. One story that comes to mind was when one of my offensive linemen made a crucial block in the last few seconds of a game, allowing our running back to score the winning touchdown.

Despite his monumental contribution, it was the running back who got the praise and adulation post-game. This is a classic illustration of the anonymity that comes with the position. The joys are in the tight-knit camaraderie of the line, the satisfaction of executing perfect plays, and knowing your crucial role in the team’s success.

It’s not a position for those who crave the limelight but for those who take pride in their fundamental role in the team’s victory.

Player Profiles

NFL offensive linemen are truly physical behemoths. They typically stand between 6’3″ and 6’8″, weigh between 300-330 pounds, and possess long arms and large hands. Their size provides advantages in reach, strength, and leverage. However, it’s not all about size. They need to maintain their agility, mobility, and endurance too.

In terms of strength, the average NFL offensive lineman can bench press around 225 lbs for 20+ reps, squat well over 400 lbs, and deadlift over 500 lbs. But strength isn’t just about raw power; it’s about explosiveness and functional power.

Running is vital for linemen too. Average 40-yard dash times range between 5.1 and 5.3 seconds. Agility and quickness are as crucial as pure speed, helping linemen get to the correct spot to make their blocks.

Toughness, both mental and physical, is a must. An example of this was when I witnessed a player continue to block effectively despite suffering a painful ankle sprain. These athletes are truly the epitome of resilience.

Essential Terminology for Offensive Linemen

Familiarizing yourself with common football and position-specific terms is crucial in understanding and executing your role as an offensive lineman. Key terms include Gap, Zone, Reach, Cut, Chip, Combo, Pancake, Sack, Blitz, and Screen.

Offensive Lineman FAQ

What do NFL scouts look for in offensive linemen?

Scouts look for a balance of size, strength, speed, technique, intelligence, and character. A player who excels in these areas could be a valuable asset to any NFL team.

Is offensive lineman a hard position?

Yes, the offensive lineman is one of the most challenging positions in football. It demands physical prowess, mental acuity, and a high degree of responsibility. The position is often underappreciated, but any seasoned player or coach will tell you that a game can be won or lost on the line.

Do offensive linemen need to be fast?

Speed is an important attribute for offensive linemen. It allows them to block effectively, move laterally quickly, and get downfield to support the play.

4th & 10

Playing as an offensive lineman is a challenging but rewarding role. You are a crucial part of the team’s success, developing vital skills that are transferable to other aspects of life.

However, it requires immense physical and mental strength, constant improvement, and an understanding of key concepts and strategies. Embrace the challenges, and remember, every great play starts in the trenches. Thanks for reading, and feel free to share this with anyone interested in the world of offensive linemen in football.

Brad Smith
Brad Smith
Brad Smith has been coaching high school Football for 6 years in Florida. He and his wife have 3 beautiful children who he hopes will become the first Jaguars to win a Superbowl. Other than Football, Brad loves American litterature, parenting, gardening, and home remodeling.