Cleveland Browns: 15 phrases O-Line coaches use explained, Part 1

Aug 26, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Cleveland Browns guard Joel Bitonio (75) and tackle Joe Thomas (73) talk against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first quarter at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 26, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Cleveland Browns guard Joel Bitonio (75) and tackle Joe Thomas (73) talk against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first quarter at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Cleveland Browns fans may hear phrases relating to offensive linemen without knowing what they mean. Here is Part 1 of a series explaining those phrases.

Ever wonder what Cleveland Browns offensive line coaches are saying about technique during interviews? Here are some common “coachisms” explained.

A recent article by Doug Samuels for highlighted the 15 most common things offensive line coaches say to instruct their players. As an offensive line coach, I could not help but to laugh. I have said many things like this and more to my players.

We will break down all 15 statements and explain what is trying to be communicated. As a bonus, I will throw in my favorite thing to say to offensive linemen.

Part 1 contains the first five of these statements.

1. “Finish”

Offensive line coaches love to yell at players to finish. The importance of finishing cannot be overstated. But what exactly is it? In short, finishing is a mindset and an attitude. It is an attitude to dominate your opponent through the whistle.

It is important because letting up after the ball carrier runs by the block allows a good defender back into the play. Nothing is more frustrating than a back getting caught from behind by a player that was blocked at the line of scrimmage. Finish the guy to the ground and he is out of play.

Conversely, if the lineman misses a block, he needs to find another person to block before the play is over. A good back or quarterback can make up for a bad block. But if the lineman gets another block downfield or on a second chance, it could mean the difference between a loss and a gain on the play.

2. “Drive”

This word is classic. The coach is encouraging the offensive linemen to move the defender off the line of scrimmage. The movement the lineman can get on the defender is key to a successful run game.

The drive phase of the blocking progression occurs after the initial contact with the defender and before throwing the hips at the finish. During this phase, the lineman uses leverage to generate power by pushing against the ground with their feet. As weird as it sounds, it does really work. It is an unnatural movement and difficult to master.

3. “Low man always wins”

Not only is this statement true, it also speaks to the mechanics of blocking. The reason offensive linemen, at any level, should be in a three-point stance is to lower their body closer to the ground.

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During the fire-out phase of the block, the offensive linemen take their first step while trying to stay low. Whoever can engage their opponent with proper balance from the lowest position usually wins the individual battle because they are in position to throw their hips generating force to finish the block.

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Coach’s note: Offensive linemen should not be stepping at the snap count. The trick to staying low and gaining leverage is to push off the opposite foot thereby propelling the linemen at the defender. “Step” is an extremely deceptive word for offensive line coaches.

4. Phrases dominated by four-letter words

This is self-explanatory. Offensive line coaches have potty mouths.

5. “Punch”

The punch is the key to the block. The blocking progression attempts to set up the lineman for an effective punch. The punch occurs on the second step. The force of the punch is generated via the leverage generated in the first two steps of the play.

In English, the lower the lineman is to the ground with bended knees (not at the waist) combined with the force generated by firing out equals the effectiveness of the punch.

The punch also includes hand placement. Hand placement is key. It much be in synch with the lineman’s footwork to be effective.

The punch is where Cameron Erving struggled while playing center and guard. Interior linemen have different footwork than outside linemen. Erving played interior line with outside-line footwork. Erving liked to drop-step like a tackle in pass protection while playing guard or center.

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This gave the defensive lineman the advantage. The defensive lineman had time to engage the offensive lineman first thereby taking the action to Erving instead of the opposite. As a result, he was not in good position to deliver an effective punch.

Conversely, Erving had great footwork and an effective punch when he played tackle against Pittsburgh.

A common misconception is to link a weak punch to lack of strength. This is simply not the case. A strong punch is a direct result of footwork and leverage. Erving does not have good footwork or leverage on the interior. But outside is a different story.

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Be sure to check back tomorrow for Part 2 of this series, where I will cover the next five phrases.