The fun of football to a youngster is the throwing, catching, or running with the ball facet of the game. Let’s be real, nobody grows up in the backyard daydreaming abut blocking people for a living. It may seem unfair but it’s honest truth about a severely under-appreciated position. If a kid is really aggressive, he may enjoy tackling, but he’s not thinking about dominating the offensive guard spot.
However, knowledgeable athletes know that the game is won and lost on the line of scrimmage. A great offensive line can control the game, making sure the quarterback has enough time to throw and the running backs have wide lanes to explode through. For an offensive lineman, it’s important to work on strength, technique, and on-field communication with your fellow linemen.
Former Collegiate and All-WAC offensive guard Barrett R. from Chandler, Arizona knows a thing or two about pushing big guys around during football training. With years of experience in coaching youth players, Barrett says that he’s found that young athletes tend to underutilize their strongest joints: their hips. So, he suggests digging into a drill involving the sled.
Barrett explains: “This is a very unique football training drill I find that helps my clients throw or marry their hips. I start the athlete(s) on their knees, sitting back on their heels, with their toes dug into the ground and in a coiled position. Their heads are positioned no more than an inch away from the sled pad. On the command, they go from the coiled position and strike the pad with their hands. If done correctly, the sled is driven a few yards forward and the athlete lands flat on their face.”
Additionally, if one has never actually played offensive line, then they truly have no idea what it is like. Physically demanding, the lineman must attempt to move a player his size or larger on every play. And, unlike other contact grueling positions, there is no promise of touchdowns, 1st downs, or glory for succeeding. More often than not, it’s the offensive line that is blamed for a loss, an overlooked after a win.
However, that’s not all either and lineman must know who to block and how to block him over a hundred different plays with the defense rarely in the same spot twice. Sounds easy, right? Success for a football team cannot exist without a good offensive line. Offensive linemen generally prefer run blocking, as it is one of the only truly fun aspects of line play to aggressively dominate the defender. Pass protection, although essential, is not fun for most linemen. If a team is going to pass the ball 70-80% of the time, coaches and teammates should keep in mind the big guys who won’t ever throw or catch the ball but will, ultimately and unfortunately, take the blame when after a sack.
(Related: Read about the defensive lineman and their bag of tricks here.)
Offensive line is a position that requires strength, speed, agility, and quickness. But it also requires an intense, yet consistent ability to perform on every play. A running back or wide receiver can have a lousy game and still win and, to an extent, so can a quarterback. But get this: during the 2014-15 season, the ten most sacked teams didn’t make the playoffs. Jacksonville allowed a staggering 4.4 sacks per game en route to an abysmally bad 3-13 record. Following them were Washington, Tampa Bay, San Francisco, Minnesota, Tennessee, Kansas City, St. Louis, Miami, and the New York Jets, all registering close to or over 3 sacks per game and not a single one of them managed to make the playoffs in 2014. So, the next time one of those franchises picks a big, flashy offensive weapon during the draft, you’ll have a newfound appreciation for the forgotten lineman.
Take San Francisco, for example, and Colin Kaepernick — a team that reached the NFC Championship three straight years — and their 3.2 allowed sacks per game in 2014. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter that Kaepernick is one of the NFL’s most talented quarterbacks or that he runs faster than almost anyone when he couldn’t even escape the pocket.
It may not be glamorous or easy, but, undeniably, the offensive linemen are the bodyguards of the game. Often unseen, these are the guys that take hit after hit, blow after blow in order to let the spotlight stay on other players. So, while it may not seem fun at first, stick with it — football wouldn’t exist without you.
Be prepared for the biggest moments by mastering the small ones off the field.