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Engaging Linebackers: Moving to the Second Level

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    Sports Tips

Engaging Linebackers: Moving to the Second Level

When it comes to football, the game is often decided in the trenches, but true success lies in how effectively you can control the second level of defense—particularly the linebackers. Whether you are an offensive lineman, a tight end, or a running back, understanding the strategies for engaging linebackers can take your game, and your Teams performance, to the next level.

Techniques for Moving to the Second Level

Run Plays

1. Zone Blocking

In Zone Blocking schemes, linemen move in unison to cover an area rather than a specific man. This allows for flexibility in blocking the second-level defenders as the play develops.

  • Steps to Execute:
    1. First Step: Take a lateral step to engage the defensive lineman.
    2. Eyes Up: Keep your head on a swivel looking for the linebacker.
    3. Leverage: Use your inside hand to maintain inside leverage.
    4. Combo Block: Work with a teammate to execute a double team before peeling off to the linebacker.

Example: Combo Block

2. Man Blocking

In Man Blocking schemes, you have a specific defender to block. This requires more targeting and precision when moving to the second level.

  • Steps to Execute:
    1. Initial Block: Engage the defensive lineman momentarily.
    2. Release: Release from the initial contact and move forward.
    3. Targeting: Square your shoulders and focus on the linebacker.
    4. Drive Through: Use your legs to drive through the linebacker maintaining good pad level.

3. Trap Blocks

Trap blocks utilize deception, allowing more space for the running back while neutralizing aggressive linebackers.

  • Steps to Execute:
    1. Pull: Pull across the formation after the snap.
    2. Engage: Trap or 'kick out' the first defender in sight.
    3. Climb: Accelerate to the second level and engage the linebacker.

Pass Plays

1. Screen Passes

Screen passes are designed to invite the pass rush and then throw the ball past the aggressors to a waiting running back or receiver, involving offensive linemen or other blockers to neutralize linebackers.

  • Steps to Execute:
    1. Initial Pass Block: Hold the block momentarily to sell the pass.
    2. Release: Let go of your defender and get into space.
    3. Identify: Quickly locate the linebacker.
    4. Cut Block: Execute a cut block to take them out of the play, or shield them from the receiver.

2. Play-action

Play-action fakes the run, forcing the linebackers to commit to the run, making them susceptible to misdirection.

  • Steps to Execute:
    1. Run Fake: Sell the run block initially to draw linebackers closer.
    2. Transition: Swiftly move into pass protection.
    3. Engage: Identify the most threatening linebacker and engage.

Player Tips & Coaching Wisdom

RoleTechniqueCoaching Tips
Offensive LinemenZone Blocking"Work in tandem with your line mate, keep your head on a swivel and maintain inside leverage."
Tight EndsMan Blocking"Always maintain eye contact with your target, use quick feet to close the distance fast."
Running BacksTrap Blocks"Read the blocks quickly, and use your vision to anticipate the linebacker’s movements."

Common Mistakes

  • Over-Pursuing: Don’t get too eager to move to the second level; ensure the first level is neutralized.
  • Bad Angles: Approaching linebackers at poor angles can lead to missed blocks.
  • Poor Footwork: Flying feet leads to missed engagements; always maintain a solid base.


Mastering the art of moving to the second level and engaging linebackers can significantly enhance offensive efficiency in both run and pass situations. Understanding the different schemes and practicing the techniques will prepare you to outmaneuver and out-muscle the opposition, leaving them scratching their heads as you advance the ball.

By integrating these practices into your game plan and emphasizing them during drills and scrimmages, both players and coaches can ensure a more formidable offense. Ready, set, block!