Cleveland Browns: How to protect the QB in the pocket
By Joel W. Cade
A clean pocket begins with the interior offensive linemen. The interior linemen control the depth of the pocket. Essentially, they control how much room the quarterback has to move up in the pocket. It is imperative the interior linemen stop defenders at the line of scrimmage to create maximum depth for the pocket.
The center and two guards form a three-man wall that does not allow any pressure up the middle. These linemen must communicate effectively to block, depending on the scheme, two defensive linemen and a linebacker or two linebackers and one defensive lineman.
The quarterback will often set the protection by calling out the “Mike” linebacker. The “Mike” is the linebacker, usually, that the interior linemen are responsible to block. It seems easy to identify but it is very difficult.
Identifying the Mike linebacker also tells the offensive tackles their responsibility in the protection scheme. But for now we will continue with pocket protection. Johnny Manziel was awful at this during his time in Cleveland.
The interior offensive linemen have one golden rule of pass protection: never give up the A gap. The A gap is the space between the guard and center. The A gap is the quickest way to the quarterback. Hits from players up the middle often result in injuries to the quarterback.
The object of this protection is to hold the line of scrimmage. By holding the line of scrimmage, the quarterback is given room to “step up in the pocket.”
As we saw earlier, the quarterback is dropping to a specific depth. If the receiver is not open the quarterback will begin to hitch up the pocket toward the interior linemen. The quarterback depth creates room for the hitches. The offensive line must hold the defense at the line of scrimmage to allow the quarterback room to “climb the pocket” to throw to secondary and tertiary receivers.
Of course, defenses know this and try to create as much pressure up the middle as possible. Up the middle is the quickest and most effective means of pressuring and sacking a quarterback.
This season the Browns have struggled to pick up defensive linemen stunts designed to create pressure up the middle. The result has been some hits on quarterback DeShone Kizer.
In years past, interior linemen have been awful at pass protection which resulted in various quarterback injuries. The Browns addressed this issue by trading away Cameron Erving and signing Kevin Zeitler.