What is a combination block?
The combination (combo) block is a smart way to get an offensive lineman’s body on one defender while picking off another defender to give your running game a distinct advantage.
In the combo block, there are two adjacent offensive linemen (center and guard, guard and tackle, or tackle and tight end) working together when performing the block, with one being designated as the post blocker and the other as the seal blocker. The combo block is executed as two adjacent linemen block a first-level defender (defensive lineman) to a second-level defender (linebacker or possible a safety). As the initial block occurs, one of the blockers gains leverage and vertical push to come off to a second-level defender.
Fran Duffy and Ben Fennell of PE.com highlighted the combination block techniques being practiced by the Eagles O-Linemen this week. They mentioned in their practice notes how much they love to watch the offensive line go through individual drills as they practiced combination blocks in their zone blocking schemes. “This group was one of the very best in the NFL last year on those combination blocks up to the second level, and I expect they’ll pick up right where they left off when the action starts this fall. It’s impressive to watch the starting offensive line work on the details and communication versus different defensive looks and assignments. They also caught a few unsuspecting players off guard by the way they fire off the double teams – nearly knocking a few backups off of their feet. On one play, Lane Johnson and Brandon Brooks smacked rookie Matt Pryor (who is 6-7 and over 330 pounds) about 5 yards upfield.”—Ben Fennell
This subject of combination blocking intrigued me enough to want to learn more about it.
So I checked out an older coaching tutorial from 2010 called “Coaching the Combo Block, by Ken Wilmesherr”…
Who is involved in specific blocks? The terminology used for play-side combos are Jack, Queen and King:
DIAGRAM 1: Jack Combo Block. Jack is a combo block between the center and call-side guard working to a play-side linebacker (LB).
DIAGRAM 2: Queen Combo Block. Queen is a combo block between the play-side guard and play-side tackle working a down defender to a play-side LB.
DIAGRAM 3: King Combo Block. King is a combo block between the play-side tackle and the play-side tight end (TE) working a down defender to a play-side LB or safety.
There are also backside combination blocks and the terminology for these combos is Ace, Deuce and Trey.
DIAGRAM 4: Ace Combo Block. Ace is a combo between the center and play-side guard working a down defender to a backside LB.
DIAGRAM 5: Deuce Combo Block. Deuce is a combo between the play-side guard and the play-side tackle working to a backside LB.
DIAGRAM 6: Trey Combo Block. Trey is a combo block between the play-side tackle and the play-side TE working a down defender to a backside LB.
There’s a ton of technical teaching stuff involved in combination blocking. You can go the that link above if you want to really get into the basic technique.
Simplifying things for knobs like me, when driving the defender, it is important the offensive lineman keeps his hips under his base of support as the defender is working to create separation. It is also imperative that the offensive linemen drive and react to the defender as the defender is trying to create separation.
It is imperative the post blocker and the seal blocker keep their shoulders square (do not get turned) and stay hip-to-hip. The position step by the seal blocker is important because he has to be on the proper angle to block the down defender. Make sure he is not stepping underneath himself with the position step because then his hips and shoulders turn, which means hes losing power and balance, thus allowing the defender to possibly split the block.
More than just footwork, a combo block is successful when the offensive linemen use proper power through their motions. Both linemen must punch upward on the down defenders breastplates to try to get lift (hit on the rise).
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SIDNEY JONES WATCH: “With De’Vante Bausby getting the majority of the first-team slot reps on Wednesday, Sidney Jones worked with the second-team spot at left cornerback. On one play matched up against receiver Greg Ward, he made an athletic pass breakup on a slant route. Later, Jones did the same thing against Agholor during the 7-on-7 period. We’ve seen a handful of plays like this from Jones, who appears to have a knack for getting his hands on the football without interfering with the receiver when he’s stuck on his hip. The play he made to end practice for the defensive starters on Tuesday looked exactly the same.” – Fran Duffy