What is ZONE PLAY?

ZONE PLAY meaning Extremely common, relatively new, one-back offensive play type in the 1990s and 2000s at the college and pro levels; typically consists of two plays: inside zone (sometimes called belly) and outside zone (sometimes called reach or stretch); whole books have been written about it; for here, I will just define it roughly; all linemen take their first step to the play side trying to reach the defensive linemen; this typically results in two or more double-team blocks; during the block, one member of each double team is to abandon the double-team block and go block a linebacker; which member of the double-team does that is a function of the success each member of the double team is having with the defensive lineman; basically, the defensive lineman must be blocked first and that is to be done by whichever of the two offensive linemen double-teaming him can get the job done as determined by the position he has achieved in relation to the defensive lineman as the play unfolds; then the unneeded offensive lineman goes up to block whichever linebacker he can; in the outside zone play, the offensive lineman who blocks a linebacker blocks the next linebacker to his inside from the outside in; in the inside zone play, he blocks the first linebacker on or outside him inside out; this offensive-line blocking scheme is very similar to the tandem or combo block except that in those blocks, it is preordained that the inside offensive lineman will end up blocking the defensive lineman and the outside offensive lineman will end up blocking a particular linebacker; the zone-play blocking is more fluid and who blocks whom is determined during the play according to who can get the defensive lineman in question and which linebacker the remaining offensive linemen have good blocking angles on; the ball carrier has a different, more inside landmark to run towards in the inside zone from the outside zone; the running back is to run “slow to the hole and fast through the hole;” that is because he is to read the blocks of the offensive linemen on the linemen and linebackers and cut to daylight wherever it is; in the inside zone play, a cutback to the other side is likely; there is no pre-designated point of attack per se to run to; the point of attack is chosen by the ball carrier based on what he sees as the play unfolds; requires a ball carrier with vision and linemen who can work together; the theory of the play is that the defense is generally aligned in a sound defense before the snap, but that if the entire offense starts running to one side or the other, the defensive alignment will break down, thereby opening up a running lane; the offensive linemen are to block whom they can the direction they can and the running back is to see the resulting lane and run through it; the attached diagrams show how to block it against a high school 4-4 defense because that is better for illustrating the blocking rules than the 4-3 would be