The Complexity of Pass Blocking Schemes

Blocking scheme can be the difference in a normal run play and a great one. The same can be said about pass plays, but I’ve never heard anyone actually say it. In the eyes of the casual fan, pass blocking is just 4 defensive lineman trying to get by 5 offensive lineman during a pass play. This is an extreme oversimplification of pass blocking. I would love to go into depth about this issue at a later date, but today I will explain how two common pass blocking schemes are executed on the football field.


This is probably the most used pass protection in the world. Starting with the name, Big on Big means lineman block lineman first (because lineman are big). When an offensive lineman has a defensive lineman covering them, they block that defender.

According to the math, most defenses only have 4 lineman, meaning that one of the offensive linemen are not covered. Typically this player is the right or left guard position. This player is responsible for the Mike/Middle linebacker, who will be considered a big.

The second part of this scheme is Back on Back, meaning runningbacks block linebackers. To avoid confusion, I will explain the blocking of a one back formation (shotgun spread). There should be two linebacker available for the runningback to block, he is responsible for both. Pretty unfair right? The odds of both outside linebackers blitzing is unlikely, but if they do the runningback will block the most dangerous man (usually backside of quarterback).

Another interpretation of Back on Back includes the quarterback blocking one linebacker. In this protection the quarterback’s “block” is more of a responsibility to pass the ball before they get crushed. When a defense has 7 defenders rushing the ball, the quarterback will be responsible for the outside linebacker opposite of the runningback.

* Changing the “Mike” linebacker is one way to adjust the scheme to better fit a team’s specific need


Reading my article on the Zone play will help you understand slide protection. Slide protection is the same as zone blocking, except instead of running down field lineman block blitzing linebackers or double team defensive lineman. In slide protection the lineman block the defensive lineman nearest to them in the direction the slide is called (i.e. slide right means lineman block the nearest lineman to their right). If there is no defensive lineman immediate to them, the offensive linemen will block the nearest blitzing linebacker in the direction of the slide. In the event there is no blitzing linebacker, the offensive lineman will double team the nearest defensive lineman in the direction of the slide.

Normally, when a runningback is involved, they are responsible for the edge opposite of the slide. They are responsible for any defender in that area, not only the defense end position.

*Some slide protection names are awkward and include: Roger, Randy, Rudy, Raazor, Lucy, Lazer, Lulu, Lucky


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