A few questions arised after one of my recent tweets regarding the bull rush. In my opinion, the ideal position for any offensive lineman to be in regards to pass rush situations is with the defender rushing down the middle. I base this belief off of my personal tenets on how to properly take a pass set.
A. Get out your stance
B. Create space
C. Maintain half man relationship to defender (knee to crotch)
All defensive players are coached to play an edge, not to play down the middle of offensive linemen. A good defender is going to play the half that leads him quickest to the quarterback. Which half is that, it's the half you as an offensive lineman give him. If you over set, the defender is playing underneath you. The inverse of that, playing too far inside the defender, he's going to rush outside of you. The worst case scenario is to play with a foot to foot relationship to the defender, you've now given him a CHOICE on which half to play and in doing so, you've played into the defenders strengths and away from yours. Defensive linemen are better athletes than most offensive lineman, you never give a better athlete than you a choice. Offensive line is a dictatorship, not a democracy, the bad guys don't get a vote.
By maintaining an inside out relationship with the defender and you creating that through urgency out your stance and space, you've now dictated to the defender where he has to play. Defensive linemen are innately like water, they take the path of least resistance. If the outside shoulder is there, he's more than likely going to continue that path, versus taking the long and bumpy road playing to your inside shoulder. If you get beat across your face when foot to foot with a defender, that's an expected outcome, but if you get beat across your face from an inside out relationship, you're playing the wrong football.
After taking a proper set and moving your feet in order to maintain the inside out relationship, the only alternative the defender has is to play down the middle of you, no bueno for him, muy bien for you. At worst case, it's going to take TIME to either run you over or pressure you back to the quarterback. In any instance you have given the quarterback his most valuable asset, time.
Some coaches and players like to fight at the line of scrimmage, that's a noble approach but not consistently functional. Not one of Mike Tyson's opponents rushed him in the ring or at least kept their teeth and did it. The smart boxers didn't want to play into his strengths, which was pure power. You'd have to keep space between you and him, maintain relationship between you and the ropes, all the while attempting to buy time in order to take your shots. This is the same approach with pass protection, set your body to a "spot", force the defender to create and think on the move, remove his ability to react. Offensive line is often taught as a reactionary position, this is true in certain realities but not in pass protection. The best linemen create their reality and force the defender to think BEFORE reaction. You can't react to a reaction of a player that's more athletic than you, you will be behind. The same way boxers wouldn't play into Mike Tyson's strengths, you can't consistently play into a defenders strengths.
The key to good offensive line play is possessing the ability to adapt. What you just read is A way, not the ONLY way. Is there a time and place for a short set, absolutely. The magic is found in having the basics, understanding the why to the basics, being able to consistently execute the basics and recognizing when you have to adjust your basics. See, that's so easy.............................. Right?
Lastly, get over your fear of the bull rush. It's this common place fear that leads you down the path of bad technique. As for coaches, it's the fear of having the pocket collapsed that often leads to miscoaching pass protection. It's much more efficient to be a speed bump than turn your offense into the German autobahn.