Pass Protection

Pass Protection For Running Backs

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Numerous coaches out there are frustrated by the same problem: watching their quarterback get blindsided while their running back is spinning like a top, trying to get the license plate of that truck that just blew by him. Here at New Trier, we teach pass protection in a four-step process: alignment, approach, contact and follow through.

Pass Protection Alignment

The initial setup is critical when the formation and play is called.  The running back must understand the correct alignment and assignment and work in conjunction with the offensive line.

Coaches can use calls from the center to alert everyone who is involved in the pass protection.  It is imperative that the running back know the alignment and assignment on every play. Running backs can set up to pass block to either side of the center’s “A” gap to outside pass rusher.  Once the ball is snapped, the running back must read the defense and occupy the area he is responsible for at the line of scrimmage.

Pass Protection Approach

Running backs must attack the line of scrimmage with their shoulders parallel to the line of scrimmage. As the blitzing linebacker or outside defender moves towards the line of scrimmage, the running back must attack the defender while moving his feet in position to protect the quarterback.

As the running back moves into position, he should keep his head on a swivel, eyeballing his pass protection responsibility. Once he has identified his responsibility, he must get into position so the defender does not beat him inside toward the quarterback.


Pass Protection Contact

A running back must align himself so he can deliver a two-hand punch to the inside of the defender’s shoulder pads. The running back should line up his nose on the inside number of the defender and be in a good balanced position ready to deliver a blow by having the shoulders over his knees and the knees over the toes.

The feet are the most critical point of the ideal pass blocking position. They should be slightly staggered, with the inside foot up and the toe of outside foot in line with the instep of the inside foot.  The back must point straight ahead and be on the balls of his feet with the majority of his weight on the inside of his feet.

His hands must be up in a “W” position ready to explosively punch into the defender; keeping his head up and his feet moving with his knees bent. But he must be careful not to overextend.

Follow-Through on Pass Protection

As the running back stalemates the defender, he must keep his body between the defender and the ball until the ball is thrown.

This article was written by Bob Spagnoli, assistant varsity football coach, New Trier (Ill.) High School. For more articles on pass protection, check out our archives.

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