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The Offensive Guard in Football: An In-Depth Guide

Posted by Throw Deep Publishing Staff on

If you take one glance at an NFL defensive end, you’ll probably quickly pick up on why the offensive tackle spot is widely considered the most important spot on the offensive line.

In the meantime, the guard spot falls under the radar, and out of the little spotlight that the offensive line has as it is. However, guards play an under-appreciated role in the architecture of every successful offense in today’s game of football, but still remain one of the most important offensive football positions.

What is a guard in football

Combining the ability to take on mammoth defensive tackles, and pulling out on the edge for linebackers and defensive backs, the guard position is one that demands a legit combination of strength and athleticism. The non-statistical battle in the trenches is a big part of every football game, and one that guards find themselves right in the middle of on a weekly basis.

Both the driving force behind a strong running game, and catalyst of a clean pocket for the QB, the guard spot is simply one that can’t be ignored for any offense.

What does a guard do in football?

Offensive guards  must use a combination of intelligence, tenacity, and quickness to block for the run and the pass. They share many of the same responsibilities as centers and tackles, but in a different and unique fashion. Their contribution in both the run and pass game shows up in many different facets, with a job that demands a combination of true athleticism and gritty strength.

Looking at pass blocking, guards are often left on an island with strong, and physical defensive tackles, as well as blitzing linebackers. Their ability to maintain positioning without losing ground is a crucial aspect in giving the QB time to throw. Their niche pass-blocking is different from that of a tackle, who can give quarterbacks the opportunity to step up in the pocket, or slide to his left and right. If a guard allows A, or B gap penetration, this will often force the quarterback to have to evade the pocket in a hurry, while losing the integrity and timing of the pass concept that is called.

Football IQ and awareness is crucial at every position, and very prevalent at the guard spot. With modern defenses possessing versatility with a variety of looks, guards must be able to communicate with the other members of the offensive line, and execute at a high level to keep the quarterback protected. This deals with stunts, twists, blitzes, and simulated pressures that defenses show to create weaknesses in pass protection.

In the run game, guards must match together toughness and technique in order to win matchups and establish double teams. The run game is a true safety blanket for offensive coordinators, and nothing sets the tone more than offenses being able to hand the ball to the running back up the gut for 4+ yards behind their guards. Paired with this is their ability to move laterally as they pull upfield for 2nd and 3rd level players, or kicking out a DE with force in order to create running lanes for their offensive skill players.

Why is it called guard?

There is no clear reason why it is called the 'guard' position, but it's just something that was a term used early in football and from there it just took off. Guards line up in the interior of the offensive line, both between the tackles and center.

What are some other names for the guard?

Abbreviations: G, LG (Left-Guard), RG (Right-Guard)

Below are some common nicknames for offensive guards, and the offensive lineman unit as a whole.

Big Uglies

What are the Skills and Body Type needed to play guard?

Functional Strength
Blocking Technique

Body Type: (General Estimate)
Height- 6’3-6’5
Weight- 300-320 Pounds
Build- Sturdy

Guards tend to possess a sturdier, more compact build compared to that of a tackle. Their body type allows them to go head to head versus heavy interior lineman, while still being able to get out and pull with efficiency.

Who are some of the best offensive guards ever?

Larry Allen (1994-2007) - Known for his bruising strength, Allen pieced together 11 Pro Bowl selections, as well as 1 Super Bowl Title in his career with the Cowboys and 49ers

Larry Allen - What is a Guard in Football - Throw Deep Publishing

John Hannah (1973-1985) - Hannah spent all 13 seasons of his career with the New England Patriots where he was selected as a 7-time All-Pro. His dominance in the run game leaves him considered as one of the best offensive lineman of all time, as he was inducted to both the College and Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Why is the Guard Position so important?

Offensive lineman naturally possess the same desired qualities, but the differentiation of tackles, guards and centers in terms of their specific importance is worth noting. In their own right, guards have their own unique set of demands in their job that show you can’t just automatically plug just any offensive lineman into the position.

Guards work to set the tone in the interior against massive defensive tackles, who typically weigh well over 300 pounds while possessing a combination of strength and agility. On the flip side, as a primary puller on counter and power schemes, a guard must have the quickness and agility to account for 2nd and 3rd level defenders.

Offensive coordinators must have 2 guards that they can count on to fully execute a variety of schemes to keep the defense off balance. The guard is a centerpiece in both the run and pass game for a variety of reasons that may be hard to catch casually watching a game. Guard’s ability to push double teams to the second level, pull and lead block, paired with the job to hold steady in 1 on 1 pass blocks versus defensive tackles plays a big role in the success of an offense that won’t show up on the stat sheet.

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