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Engaging Linebackers: Moving to the Second Level

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Engaging Linebackers: Moving to the Second Level

Mastering the art of engaging linebackers at the second level is crucial for an offensive line's success, whether it’s clearing paths in the run game or providing protective pockets in the pass game. Here, we'll blend player insights and coaching strategies to unveil the techniques and mindset required to dominate this aspect of football.

Understanding Second Level Engagement

Why It Matters

Engaging linebackers at the second level can turn a marginal gain into a big play. When offensive linemen transition to these critical blocks, they enable running backs to find more space and give quarterbacks more time, making the offense more unpredictable and versatile.

The Objectives

  • Disengage Quickly: Ensure a fast release from the initial line scrimmage fight.
  • Maintain Control: Use athleticism and technique to stay in front of linebackers.
  • Create Lanes: Open up running or passing lanes to maximize play potential.

Run Game Techniques

Pre-Snap Analysis

  1. Defensive Alignment: Identify linebacker positions and predict their movement.
  2. Scheme Recognition: Understand whether you're dealing with a zone or man defense.

Off the Snap

  • Initial Engagement: Deliver a solid first block on the defensive line.
  • Hand Placement: Keep hands inside to control the defender and prepare for the release.

Moving to the Second Level

  • Leverage: Use low center of gravity to maintain balance.
  • Eyes Up: Identify your linebacker target as you disengage from the initial block.
  • Controlled Aggression: Approach with controlled speed to avoid over-pursuing.

Key Techniques

Chip and ClimbDeliver a chip block to assist a teammate and then release quickly to the second level.
Angle BlockingUse the angle to cut off the linebacker’s path, forcing them to redirect while you gain position.
Zone BlockingWork in tandem with fellow linemen to create lateral movement, making it easier to find and block the correct linebacker.

Pass Game Techniques

Pre-Snap Reads

  1. Blitz Indicators: Identify potential blitzing linebackers.
  2. Coverage Recognition: Determine if the linebackers are dropping into coverage or making a play on the QB.

Initial Steps

  • Quick Step Back: Take a fast pass set to establish a stout base.
  • Hands Ready: Be prepared to punch and engage any immediate threats.

Engagement Strategy

  • Mirror and Match: Mimic the linebacker's movements to stay in front of them.
  • Strength and Balance: Maintain strong core balance to avoid being pushed aside or overpowered by blitzing linebackers.
  • Stay Low: Keep a low pad level to generate power and leverage effectively.

Key Techniques

Anchor and DriveUse lower body strength to absorb the linebacker’s initial contact while driving upwards.
Hand FightingActive hand techniques to control and direct linebackers away from the quarterback.
Punch and ResetDeliver a strong punch to destabilize the linebacker, then reset to keep them at bay.

Coaching Wisdom

Drills and Practice

  • Bag Drills: Focus on footwork and quick releases.
  • Shadowing: Pair linemen with linebackers to practice mirroring movements.
  • Film Study: Analyze opposing linebackers to predict their moves and tendencies.

Core Principles

  1. Consistency: Regular practice and repetition of second-level engagement techniques.
  2. Communication: Ensure linemen understand their roles and communicate effectively on the field.
  3. Adaptability: Encourage quick adjustments based on linebacker positioning and movement.

Player Insights

Veteran Tips

  • Nick Mangold: "Stay patient and don’t overcommit. The second level requires finesse and power in equal measure."
  • Joe Thomas: "It’s all about the first step. Get that right, and you’re halfway there."

Common Pitfalls

  • Over-pursuing linebackers: Stay controlled and avoid lunging.
  • Neglecting initial blocks: Always ensure you provide adequate help before moving on.


Mastering the second level's craft is essential for offensive linemen aiming to elevate their game. By combining these techniques and insights with consistent practice, both players and coaches can significantly enhance their effectiveness on the field. Remember, it’s not just about the physicality but also the mental game, agility, and awareness that come into play.

Stay tuned for more tips, strategies, and expert insights to take your game to the next level! If you found this article helpful, don't forget to subscribe and share it with your fellow football enthusiasts.