And the only real hope for Seattle's offense in 2010.
The Zone Blocking Scheme is in the process of changing the perception of the running game and particularly the offensive lineman totally and permanently. It is the most effective, successful and one of the simplest schemes ever invented in football, and when run correctly is literally unstoppable.
I played in a ZBS ala UO for four years in high school, playing at one point or another every position on the offensive line. We rocked people with it. It takes away any advantage a single defender has against a single blocker, so with a bunch of slow, athletically challenged white boys from farm country (Lynden) we have won three of the last four State Championships.
The beauty of zone blocking lies in that the offensive line is literally that: a line of bodies moving in complete unison, step for step. Perhaps a mobile wall is a better term. The lineman have no idea who they are blocking at the snap of the ball. That is decided by the defense, by using what they do to create the play as it unfolds. There is no hole decided at the snap, there is a direction given. Let the defense pick the hole and they will, every time.
Now, lets get into the nuts and bolts of how this exactly works, shall we?
The defense is in a pure 4-3, for simplicities sake. From the defense's right, starting with the RDE through to the LDE, their alignment is 5 tech, 1 tech, 3 Tech, 5 Tech. MLB is over the center, OLB's are inside head up on the OT. The offense is single tight, I formation. The play is zone right, a zone run to the right. At the snap of the ball, each lineman will pick up his right foot and take a 45 degree 8 inch step to the right. They then follow it with the left, so that they are facing at a diagonal to the right sideline. This is where the contact should occur. If the D line has not stunted, this is how the blocking will start, from left to right with the starters names for funzies: Okung steps hard right, ensuring the DE cannot stunt across his face. If the DE does that, he can blow up the play from the backside. If he heads upfield or outside, Okung ignores him; he is not in his zone. Unless the 1 tech has come across Hamiltons Face, Okung continues until he engages the second level.. Next down the line, Hamilton will have the job of of handling the 1 tech, working to secure his inside shoulder and hooking him. If the 1 tech shoots playside Ham will have help from Spencer. If not, Hamilton will single the 1 tech. He does not have to move him, just hook his playside shoulder and trust the back to break an arm tackle. These backside blocks do two things. Firstly, they shut down backside pursuit and allow the play to develop. More importantly, however, they create massive cutback lanes that if hit while opening will send a back 20 yards untouched. On the play side, Spencer and Unger will have the duty of working the 3 Tech. It is Spencer's task to cross his face and get his outside shoulder, and it is Unger's job to secure the 3 tech while Spencer hooks him, creating the first Playside Lane. This double team is the most important. There needs to be push on the playside double team for the holes to open, and the middle linebacker is often blocked by one of these players. Finally, Locklear and Carlson get the DE, with Locklear working across the DE's body while Carlson secures, creating the Second Playside Lane to the outside.
These are the initial blocks and double teams that should occur if the DL is not stunting or twisting or shooting a particular gap. This is not the norm, however, and the ZBS accounts for that better than any other blocking system. Say the 3 tech dives hard outside, so that Hamilton cannot engage him without turning back, a cardinal sin in this scheme. Okung simply buries the DT while Hamilton finds the guy who is coming to fill his spot. The ZBS runs under the assumption that nobody moves without someone filling his spot, and it is true 99% of the time. If he dives inside, Hamilton buries him and Okung fills the lane. It doesn't matter what the defense does, as long as everybody steps playside they will find contact and when they do, they engage and hook the playside shoulder of the defender. Every D lineman will be accounted for every time if every Offensive lineman simply steps to the playside.
With 7 blockers there should be a double team on the three lineman closest to the playside; namely, everybody except the backside end. Once these double teams are initiated, the term to describe what happens next is best put as "Four hands on the Body, Four Eyes on the Backer." The lineman in the double team will watch the linebacker over them and wait until he commits to a lane. This is generally dictated by the RB, unless the LB is on a blitz. As the LB steps up to fill the hole, the lineman on the double team closest to the hole slides off and picks the LB up. This happens off of each double team, which, if done correctly, will account for all three backers and leave the RB with the secondary wide open. If because of the defensive set (this happens a lot against 3-4 teams and stunting teams) the double team is unnecessary or impractical, the free O lineman simply continues on into the backers at a right hand diagonal to the sideline, engaging the first defender he meets.
If run perfectly, there is nothing a defense can do to stop this play for less than 5 yards. Because of the double teams, it negates strength. Because of the uniform wall wherever a defender goes, it negates speed. The only direction that speed would be useful for against the ZBS is out of the play. Once you negate speed and strength, in the trenches the only things left are technique and discipline. And that is where Alex Gibbs excels. His guys have perfect zone form and timing, keeping their pads low and at a diagonal for 3-5 yards deep, with their heads up figuring out who they're gonna get a body on. Their first 4 steps are perfectly synchronous, moving exactly the same distance in exactly the same time. If Alex Gibbs can get our players to simply stay disciplined and trust the system, it doesn't matter that our line is both frighteningly young and crippling old at the same time, because their lack of experience or aging talents will nearly be non issues, as long as they are disciplined and have their technique. At least for their run blocking.
I expect big improvements in Seattle's run game this year, barring injuries (hate how I have to say that). Forsett might be the next 7th round draft pick that Gibbs' system made a star (TD anyone?). He is patient, fits though small holes, breaks arm tackles and rarely if ever goes backwards. If things break right, or rather don't break at all, Force should have a big year in this system. Gibbs has done it everywhere he has been, and I'd be pretty surprised if that stopped in Seattle.