Pass Protection

We try to keep our pass protection very simple, but we do have a few forms because we like to vary the launch point for our QBs. However, our two main protections are our 1 back protections and our 2 back(which actually also is used with no back).

On all pass plays the line will take normal splits, smaller on 3-step, and the guards and tackles are to be as far off the ball as possible, but cannot bow the line. (Tackles must be even with guards.)

All of our pass plays are called in the huddle with a callside. This refers both to the frontside for receivers and also for protection. 2 indicated playside right, 1 indicates playside left. Immediately after any playcall is the protection call. We used to call our protection strengths at the line but this greatly simplified things.

E.g. 262 Green is playside right, 62 which is our 60(quick) game and 2 is our slant/shoot package.


This is a very simple protection scheme that we use with all of our 3-step routes as well as any one back formations. There are two protection calls, Red and Green. The base rules for this protection are as follows:

Linemen to callside block man on until the first bubble, or essentially uncovered linemen. (We don't say uncovered because of stunting DL but it is generally uncovered). From the bubble to backside the other will linemen will all slide away from the callside to that gap, and, as we like to say, pick up trash. For example versus a standard 4 man front, with the center uncovered, the center, backside guard and tackle will slide that way. Playside guard and tackle will block man on.

The RB essentially blocks LBs inside to out, from the bubble to outside rusher, or if you like Mike to Sam. If they don't come he releases.

Often, against 2 safety Ds and most spread formations he doesn't usually have to dual read.

The difference between Red and Green is simply that in Red, the Tight end (Y) will stay in, and his rules will be exactly like the other linemen. He often will block the DE. In Green he will release. This has been easy for us and is easy to remember(Green-Go, Red-Stay).

This has needed a minimal amount of adjusting. We use this as our 3-step pass protection, and we tell the QB that the 4th rusher to either side is his man, he must have the ball gone. Also we use it as our 5-step protection when we have only 1 back. If we have a tight end on the field, we will use Red in 5-step, we do not use Red in 3-step except against cover 0 type blitzing teams.

Two-Back/No-Back(Man Scheme):

This has been very easy for us also. The rules are:

  • OTs block man(DEs almost always, unless stunt, in which case pick up man coming to you)
  • Playside Guard, if uncovered, dual read ILB to OLB, Mike to Sam.
  • If playside guard is uncovered, C and Backside Guard form a 2 man area/zone and will pick up trash.
  • If playside guard is covered, both guards and center form a 3 man area/zone and pick up trash(DTs, ILBs)
  • Both backs check release. Backside back checks OLB to outside rusher to release.
  • Playside back checks OLB(Sam) to outside rusher to release.

    This is what we do and it has been very effective. With this we form a cup protection, the tackles want to keep a "half-man advantage" to quote Jerry Cambell, and the interior linemen must stay square and set up, not allowing much penetration up the middle.

    We try to focus on the how rather than who.


    For our play action, we essentially just do the same thing as Red/Green protections, even from two back, but we more often keep the tight end in. We simply make a call on top of the normal play call, which for us is Gator. E.g. Doubles Rt 252 Red Gator. Doubles RT, the formation, flanker and tight end right, split end and slot left, single back. 252 Callside right, 52 5-step series, 2 is the playcall, which is our corner/smash routes. Red, protection, with Gator adjustment.

    All Gator does for the line and tight end is tell them to be slightly more aggressive at the snap, to help sell run. The bottom line however is to get their men blocked. Gator is really for the QB and the RB, as it tells them to carry out their run fake to the callside. The back has the difficult job of using correct steps, faking the handoff, selling it and then carrying out a block or if no one comes releasing into the route. So we spend a lot of time with them practicing this.

    This is how we carry out or pocket-style play action passing. We always use green or red with a gator call, with our 5-step route series. There are some of our 5-step plays that we run almost exclusively from play action.

    Here are a few notes from an article Bill Walsh wrote about play action passing, they are so helpful, I will quote them at length:

    "The offensive line can be an easy place for defenses to find indicators[that it is a play-action pass and not a run]. One of the easy reads for the defense, is if a lineman's helmet pops up. The helmets and pads of offensive linemen have to stay at the same level as on a run play. The secondary defenders, corners or safeties. will see those helmets pop up or the tackle drop back and they know immediately that it is a pass. (For example, if the corner to the open side of the field is looking through an offensive tackle right to the quarterback and he sees that tackle's helmet pop up and step back-he will not care what the fake is, unless it is a fake draw-he will automatically know that the play is a play-pass.)

    The quarterback must understand that play pass blocking is not as sound and can break down. He must be prepared for a pass rusher to get off of his blocker and be penetrating early. The quarterback must understand this, concentrate down field, and possibly take a hit just after he throws.

    [The Running back's] faking technique requires shoulders at waist-high level, arms and hands held exactly as in taking a hand off-except the far hand is placed flat against the stomach so the ball can be inserted in the pocket then pulled out smoothly.

    Basic [play-action pass protection] requires the onside linemen (center-guard-tackle) to employ controlled, quick protection. This is taught as a technique. Contact is made at the line of scrimmage. The defenders cannot be given space. Any space between the defensive and offensive linemen indicates to the defense its a pass. Contact should be sustained but in balance and in control, lunging forward can be disastrous. The ability to move laterally with the defender is critical."


    Our half-roll protection is one that we for some reason in our great coaching wisdom, had wanted to get rid of several seasons ago. However, the kids liked it so much and it was always successful and easy for us, that we had to continue using it. It is very similar in concept to the half-roll protection used by the run and shoot, except our QBs have more freedom to keep rolling out and we try to design it as such.

    Also, it has continually proven to be positive to vary our launch points for all, and this has also been effective for QBs without very strong arms, and shorter ones to see better. I think many QBs can be more comfortable with this than certain dropbacks.

    We use this with our 50 series, but it is independant of callside, because we may not always want to roll to the strongside. We do it by making a Rocket or Laser call, Rocket being half-roll right, Laser being Half-roll left. So for example: Doubles Rt Open 154 Rocket. So players must listen and not confuse the normal callside with the half-roll callside. Anyway, here are the rules:

  • Backside Tackle: Backside Tackle: Turn and Hinge
  • Backside Guard: Turn and Hinge
  • Center: If covered or shade to callside, reach. If uncovered with no shade to callside, turn and hinge.
    (Note, on turn and hinges, unless you make immediate contact begin to get depth to stay between the QB and your man. You do not want to be still on the LOS as the DE comes upfield)
  • Playside Guard: Reach, plug hole/backside
  • Playside Tackle: Reach (Note: On any reach block, if you are unable to reach, ride your man out to the sideline. Don't get beat outside trying to hopeless reach. A man pushed out of bounds and kept on the LOS is just as effective.)

  • RB: Take two steps to callside, looking at outside rusher. Look for OLB or outside rusher to come shooting, block first color that shows. If none show, check middle and then backside. You are QBs bodyguard. Step to rush, do not wait for him to get to the QB.
  • Pre-snap look is key. QB will go at a 45 degree angle to a depth of 5-6 yards and then will level off. He will need to get his eyes up, and look downfield. He can continue moving parrallel to the LOS, but he must know when he must stop and step up in the pocket and deliver the ball. If he breaks contain he can continue out, he does not have a set place he has to be, but he must be smart.

    This is a protection reliant on the QB. He must help his blockers by not getting into trouble, thinking he can outrun everyone, and he must have a good sense of timing and be well practiced, as this type of dropback is not as carefully calibrated as our 5 and 3 step drops are. However, its simplicity and ability to move the QB around has been a real asset to us, as shown by the fact that for a time we were too blind to see it.