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What is Zone Blocking?

What is Zone Blocking?

In football, one of the best ways of defending your runner in running plays is the use of zone blocking techniques. This is far more tactically advanced and effective than traditional man marking.
Rahul Thadani
Football players tackling opposing team during game
Zone blocking is one of the two ways in which a team chooses to make space when they are on the offense in American football. It is a practiced maneuver in American football, which enables openings for the running players to advance in the game play. It also known as base blocking. When a runner who has the ball is running towards the end line to score points, it is necessary to try to clear the field for him and provide him with as much space as possible. One way of achieving this is man-blocking, wherein each team member of this individual attempts to tackle one player of the opposing team. Zone blocking is arguably the better way for creating empty lanes for runners during the play, as it gives them a general idea about which direction to run in. A better technical understanding of the game is required for this purpose, whereas man blocking requires players to be bigger in size and more physically intimidating. For this reason, it is said many times that zonal blocking tests the true tactical and technical abilities of a football team.

Basics of Zone Blocking
The biggest advantage of zonal blocking is that it is a proactive measure, in comparison with man marking, which is more reactive in nature. Man blocking requires one player to trace and follow another one all the time, and this can lead the opposing team to break up your plan and strategy completely. If there are tactical changes in the defensive team, then your team will also necessarily have to change shape. This form of defense does not have these limitations, as they are focused on giving each team member the responsibility of clearing up a specified area. Any opponent who enters that area should be tackled immediately. Since this is a proactive technique, many teams adopt it as their prime strategy. Here are some famous football teams in the National Football League (NFL) who regularly use this method.
  • Houston Texans
  • Green Bay Packers
  • Indianapolis Colts
  • Washington Redskins
  • Oakland Raiders
There are many other additional benefits as well that zonal blocking brings to the team, and here are some of the most commonly known and recognized advantages of this system.
  • You can outnumber the defending team right at the point of attack.
  • You can adapt this system into any style of offensive play.
  • The need for physically superior defenders is marginalized.
  • It brings about a better tactical understanding of the game.
Zone Blocking Techniques
This system of blocking defenders does not come without its own set of variations either. The flexibility that this system provides is enough to convince many teams to take up this method. Here are some of the basic techniques and variations.
  • The Zone Scoop
  • The Combo
  • The Go
  • The Slide
  • The Fold
  • The Crossover Cut
  • The Trap
If you are either a coach, an aspiring football player or even an experienced football player, you must learn all that you can about these techniques and moves, as they can come in handy many times during the course of play. There are many different ways of adapting these techniques, and it all depends on what the coach thinks is the best play at the moment. This method is even more useful when the opponents in the game are much more superior physically. It is hard to achieve penetration with running plays in such a scenario, and this is where zone blocking becomes vitally important in youth football, college football, and especially professional football.

This system also encourages all the players in the team to play for each other, because it involves a large amount of concentration and anticipation. When it comes to creating and planning running plays, it is highly recommended that you use zone blocking, rather than man marking, to protect your runner.