AbsolutAnalysis - "Pass Protections"

"Max Protect" and other protection schemes are every quarterback's best friends. .NET's Matt Lathrop looks at the different ways they're done.

Welcome to a brand new AbsolutAnalysis. I hope you enjoyed last week's look at past columns regarding defensive coverage. I posted those columns again because I wanted to have those articles archived with TheInsiders, and since this is not a time of the year you want to be going to college, it gave me a chance to breathe with everything else I’ve got going on. This time around, I’m going to take a look at a few different pass protection concepts, both man and zone, which will also allow me to build a resource to refer to during the season when I break down games. Once again, I got to make up the names of each protection, simply because I want to, and also because I can.

For this column, all the protections I have diagramed slide to the right, but they can of course slide to the left as well (I will explain sliding protection later in the column). During the season, I will refer to protection to the right as “Ringo”, and to the left as “Lucky”.

When making a protection call, whether it is the coach, QB, or Center doing so, the object is to “slide” the protection to the side of the “most likely rusher.” What sliding means, is to move the offensive linemen to their respective gap of the called side. So if it’s a Ringo call, the line would slide to the right and protect the gaps on that side. Depending on the protection, the entire line might slide, or only the front side, with the backside staying home and playing a man protection. This is illustrated in the diagrams below, so let’s take a look.

First is a Max Protect scheme, meaning 8 men stay in and protect the QB, leaving two players release into pass patterns. As you can see, the protection is Ringo, with the RBs picking up any backside (opposite of the slide) activity. This is a common component of sliding protections, as a RB will seldom be directed to pick up front side activity unless he is on a double read to release assignment, which is shown later.

(Max Protect w/ 2 TE)
Max Protect w/ 2 RB

As you can see above, the line slides to the right to pick up the defense, as the RB(s) head backside. When a diagram is presented with 1 RB, it is referring to the first back directly behind the center. This could be the FB, such as in an I formation, or the HB in a single back. Regardless, the assignment stays the same. In the image with two RB, the FB will pick up the C Gap, and HB will step out and pick up D Gap, or outside rushers.

(Man Protect)

Here is a pretty simple 7-man protection scheme, with each player having an assigned player they are responsible. The backs have a read and release assignment, meaning if their assigned player does not rush the passer, they are to release on a pass route. The TE becomes a hot route if the Sam blitzes on this play, as he will abandon coverage on the TE.


Here is an example of front side slide coverage with the back side picking up man. In Rocket, the LT sticks on the pass rushing end, while the rest of the line slides to the right. In Skeet, the TE releases and the back side guard and tackle stay in man, as the front side guard and tackle zone block (blue square) the three players shown along with the center. The green lines from the RB indicate what’s called a ‘double read.’ This means he reads the LB’s from inside to outside, checking for a blitz. If neither rushes, then he releases into the play. Double reads are not strictly RBs, as uncovered linemen use this technique as well, but this serves the purpose of showing the technique, and is applicable in pass protections.


Bullet is another slide protection with the RB picking up back side activity. In this scheme he is responsible for both B gap and C gap outside rush since the back side guard is sliding inside to the A gap. With the tackle playing aggressive on the DE, that leaves an open B gap, which take priority over the C gap (because it’s a shorter and faster path to the QB). Flush is a no-back protection, with man blocking up front. The slot players aren’t responsible for blocking the men over them, rather the green lines indicate that they become hot targets if that man blitzes. To clarify, hot meaning that if the man over them rushes, that receiver becomes a quick route that the QB should look to because he will be occupying an area vacated by the blitzing defensive player.

Those are some basic pass protection schemes and concepts utilized in every level of football, in one way or another. I hope you enjoyed this week’s column, and it will resurface when the season starts and I begin to break down games. I will refer back to this article and the schemes I’ve presented during the season in order to provide a complete analysis of the plays I break down. If you have any comments or questions, I’d love some feedback so please email me. If you have any problems or insults, email my boss. See you next week!

Matt Lathrop, .NET's "Xs and Os Guru", writes "AbsolutAnalysis" every Wednesday. Feel free to contact him at mattl@seahawks.net.

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