Having spent 12 seasons as the Indianapolis Colts offensive line coach, I naturally developed an affinity for Peyton Manning. My job was to teach the guys who protected him. So naturally I loved seeing him win his second Super Bowl in what might turn out to be his final game. But I find it ironic that Carolina’s offensive line contributed to his win.

Peyton’s teammate Von Miller played like a beast. On the other end, DeMarcus Ware combined with Miller to harass Cam Newton in ways he hadn’t been pressured all season. Miller’s strip sack resulting in Denver’s first touchdown launched the Broncos toward the win. In my view, Carolina’s tackles commitment to vertically setting to pass-block Miller and Ware made it a lot easier for Denver’s pass rushers to hit Newton 13 times, tilting the game’s balance to the Broncos.

Vertical setting to pass block has become popular. The tackles take deliberate backward steps in a straight line, creating a narrower, deeper pocket. The theory is that it makes it easier to pick up the defense’s stunts more easily. But what it really does is give athletes like Ware and Miller more room to show off their athleticism.

Time and space is the pass rusher’s friend and the blocker’s enemy. But the vertical set concedes both to the defense. Why would you give players like Miller and Ware so much room to operate? All you’re doing is giving them time to get a head of steam and a large area in which to apply moves that make life miserable for the quarterback.

There is no tackle in football that can match Denver’s two best pass rushers in athletic skill. Backing up only gives a gifted pass rusher more opportunity to show the world he is a superior athlete.

I have long advocated an aggressive pass set that closes the ground between the o-lineman and the pass rusher. The blocker engages more quickly at a point closer to the line of scrimmage, taking the advantage of time and space away from the defense. By engaging the defensive end sooner, the blocker has a better chance to neutralize and control the rusher. The aggressive set also gives the o-lineman the better opportunity to use his natural levers to block with better technique to stay with his man.


There are times I watch teams using the vertical set with their tackles being bull rushed right into the quarterback, or great defensive ends and linebackers taking advantage of the extra room a retreating tackle is giving up. It nearly makes me want to puke. I and the twenty other offensive linemen who are a part of it, talk about the subject in my book The View From the O-Line, scheduled for release by Skyhorse Publishing in September

So though I’m very glad to see the Broncos win one for Peyton, it still pains me to see offensive tackles vertically setting when there is more efficient way to pass block.


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