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Cleveland Browns 101: Zone Blocking Scheme is Coming in 2014

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

For 2014, the Cleveland Browns are taking a page out of Vince Lombardi‘s playbook from 1959. New offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and company will be using a zone blocking scheme to run the football. In fact, many pro and college teams use this scheme in their offense presently. What is a zone blocking scheme though? Let’s examine and tell you what to look for as you watch training camp in just three days.

The idea is to create running lanes simple and effectively. In zone blocking it’s not about size and strength, rather athletic ability and quick feet. Coordination and technique are key as offensive lineman basically double team their counterparts at the point of attack. The ultimate goal is to create movement on the defensive line which in turn opens up holes in the defense. This is why they targeted the very athletic Joel Bitonio in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft.

There is a reason why the Browns signed Ben Tate in the off-season and drafted Terrance West. Successful zone blocking teams often use a two-back system. Under a former Browns coach Jeff Davidson, the 2008 Carolina Panthers implemented zone blocking with their one-two punch backs, DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. It worked to great effect and the Panthers made the playoffs.

In zone blocking, there are three types of options: Inside Zone (IZ), Outside Zone (OZ), and Stretch. The Inside and Outside category describes running inside or outside the offensive tackle. The Browns should also carry a “real” fullback this year and will pay dividends in this scheme. Whether running inside or outside, the Browns o-line will always pair two on one and use a fullback to block the remaining defender.

When Cleveland runs outside, they will use a scheme called “Pin & Pull”. Browns inside linemen will pin the backside defensive linemen and the backside offensive linemen pulls around the block to get to the second level. This is how Lombardi made a statement with his running game thinking.

What does all this mean for Mike Pettine‘s nose bloodied Browns? In 2008, Williams and Stewart ran for 2,351 yards on 457 carries combined. The tandem scored 28 touchdowns and averaged 5.1 yards per carry. Cleveland hasn’t had two dominant backs in the same backfield since the Earnest Byner and Kevin Mack days. If this is any slight indication of what’s to come, then Browns fans are in for one fun season. Can you hear Jim Donovan‘s voice now – “5,4,3,2,1 touchdown Browns!”

Ryan Ruiz is the Cleveland Browns Beat Writer for The Inscriber: Digital Magazine. You can follow him on Facebook: Ryan (BrownsWriter) Ruiz and Twitter @ryanpruiz24. Ryan is also a Browns correspondent for The Sportsfix. Tune in every Friday at noon on www.thesportsfix.net.  Email Ryan at ryan.ruiz@


Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at robert.cobb@theinscribermag.com

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