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Football: Offensive Line
The offensive line, or O-line, are the group of offensive players that play up front and block for the quarterback and running backs. Even though the quarterback and running backs get all the glory and press, they couldn't do anything without the offensive line.
- Center - The center is at the middle of the offensive line. He snaps the ball to the quarterback and makes last minute blocking assignments.
- Guard - On each side of the center is a guard.
- Tackle - On each side of the guards is the tackle. In the NFL the left tackle is considered a very important position as this tackle must pass block for the "blind side" of a right handed quarterback.
- Tight end - The tight end lines up outside one of the tackles. He may line up on either side of the formation or there may even be two tight ends in some formations. The tight end also acts as a receiver and can catch a pass.
In run blocking the offensive linemen try to push back the defensive line and create holes that the running backs can run through. They work together to create holes in certain areas or to push the entire defense a certain direction.
Each offensive lineman will have a certain assignment on the defense. For example, on one play the center may be responsible for blocking the middle linebacker and then moving down field to hit the safety. On another play, the center may need to help the left tackle take out the nose guard.
In pass blocking the offensive linemen try to create a safe "pocket" around the quarterback. Again each lineman will have his assignment. In many cases they may double team the other team's best pass rusher. In the cases where the other team blitzes they need to be ready to pick up the extra defender, perhaps with the help of a running back.
One technique used by the offensive line is pulling. This is when a guard or tackle will quickly "pull" or move to the other side of the line once the ball is hiked. This adds additional help with the blocking in a certain area. It may leave a defender unblocked on one side of the line, but adds another blocker to the side where the ball is being run.
Snap Count Advantage
Offensive linemen have both an advantage and a disadvantage against defenders. Their advantage is that they know the snap count. The snap count tells the offensive linemen exactly when the center is going to snap the ball to the quarterback. This should give the offensive lineman an advantage, as he knows exactly when the ball will be snapped and can take off and attack the defender as soon as he hears the count.
To counter the advantage of the snap count, the offensive linemen must stay "set" or still prior to the snap. Once they get into a set position, they can't move until the ball is snapped. If they move, they will get a false start penalty which will move the ball back five yards. The defenders, on the other hand, can move around all they want.
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