How to Defeat Double Team Blocking

By Steve Silverman

Football has evolved from a run-oriented game to one that is keyed by the pass. Move the ball through the air and stop your opponent from throwing the ball, and your team will have the advantage 90 percent of the time. Offenses are high-powered and explosive. Teams that like to attack down the field can score quickly and undo their opponent's long drive for a score. To prevent the big offensive play, most teams realize that pressuring the quarterback is the answer. If you have a big-time pass rusher at defensive end or outside linebacker, you have a big advantage. But your opponent knows who has been wrecking the pocket and getting to the quarterback, and has decided to double-team him.

Recognize from the sidelines that your star defensive end is getting double-teamed and figure out how the double-team is working. If the right tackle is blocking the defensive end, they are most likely using the running back to get the second block in on your pass rusher. In this case, your defensive end has to take on the tackle and defeat him and then bull-rush the running back out of position or back him into the quarterback. If the defensive end has won his battle easily against the tackle, he may be able to use his strength and quickness to get into the running back quickly and push him aside. However, if the running back gets in the first blow, he may just be able to move your defensive end enough to give the quarterback enough time to pass the ball. In that case, you need to bring additional pressure.

Realize that everyone else will have single coverage and that if your stud pass rusher is double-teamed and you decide to blitz, someone will be unblocked. Take an aggressive stance and send a defensive back from the opposite side. He will likely cause havoc, since he is coming from the blind side. A turnover, a sack or a poor pass is the likely result. Even if the defensive back fails to get to the quarterback, it will send the message that you will not accept a double-team lightly.

Split the tight end double-team. When your opponent double teams the right end--who is coming from a right-handed quarterback's blind side--the second blocker is likely the tight end. He will try to level a combination block on the end to protect the quarterback. The first move the defensive right end should try is to split the double team. To do this, he needs to angle his body toward the gap between the tight end and left tackle and get his shoulder through, and then raise up hard with his arms to break the men apart and power forward. This is a difficult proposition, but film study will show how the opponent tries to double team and where the weak spot is.

Attack from the weak side. If your stud pass rusher is your weak side outside linebacker, the double-team block will likely come from the left tackle and the right guard. Your outside linebacker is coming on a speed rush and the tackle will try to beat him to the spot before the end flattens out. If he can, he should be able to engage him long enough for the quarterback to get rid of a quick pass. If he can't, the right guard will try to cut him down by firing out at his midsection before he reaches the quarterback. This is a 50-50 proposition because the linebacker's speed may allow him to change direction and get to the quarterback before he gets hit.

Watch as much film of your opponent's pass blocking schemes as possible. If you believe the double-team is coming, have your best pass rushers switch positions on the line and come at the quarterback from different angles. This will not stop the double-team, but it will take the team's most proficient pass protectors out of the equation as you attack weaker spots on the line.

About the Author

Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer, covering sports since 1980. Silverman authored The Minnesota Vikings: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and Who's Better, Who's Best in Football -- The Top 60 Players of All-Time, among others, and placed in the Pro Football Writers of America awards three times. Silverman holds a Master of Science in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism.

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