Gridiron Glossary: Zone Blocking

Zone Blocking is a blocking scheme for offensive lineman in which the covered offensive linemen block the man in front of them and the uncovered offensive lineman step placed to execute a combo block, if a defender is available, and if not to proceed to the second level to block linebackers with the exception that the backside defender is left unblocked.

Zone blockingj

Zone blocking is the entire blocking scheme and zoning is what two lineman are doing together.  In the diagram above look at the two combo blocks.  On the one to the left, the guard and tackle are covered.  In the zone blocking scheme the backside defender is left unblocked, so the tackle is treated as uncovered.  The guard is covered.  The guard’s rule is to block the man in front of him.  The tackle steps playside and will run into the defender covering the guard.  They will both block the defender at first, and then one will go block the linebacker.

Now look at the combo block on the right.  In this case the guard is uncovered and the tackle is covered.  The tackle’s first rule is to block the man covering him.  The uncovered guard steps placed and will find no one to block because the defender covering the tackle is too far away.  After that step the guard will then go to the linebacker to block.

Both of these combos are examples of zoning.  The uncovered player stepping placed to either engage in a combo block or proceed directly to the linebacker is the essence of the scheme.

Gridiron Glossary is a resource for football terms that are often used by commentators, coaches and players but rarely defined.  If there is a term you have questions about or a definition you don’t agree with, let me know at

About Billy Koehler

Billy Koehler is the founder of and a contributing writer at He has been covering college football since 2006. You can follow him on twitter @billykoehler.
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