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An In-Depth Guide to the Offensive Lineman Position

Posted by Throw Deep Publishing Staff on

Offensive lineman play arguably the most selfless and grueling position in all of sports. With no chance to impact the stat sheet, their job is solely based on protecting their offensive teammates working to score touchdowns – made possible from the work of their unit upfront.

what is an offensive lineman

Their job is one that is praised within the walls of their locker room, and understood by those who have played the game. However, if you check NFL jersey sales, or see a post-game NFL interview, it is virtually promised that you will see the name of a glorified superstar at one of the skill player positions having the chance to soak up praise.

This embodies everything about the position, as offensive lineman are content battling in the trenches without a need for the spotlight. If all goes according to plan, their superstar teammates are the ones who will receive the attention – and that is just the way that they like it to be.

Undeniably, the offensive line as a collection of offensive football positions is the driving force behind any productive offense. Teams having the ability to run the ball at will, as well as giving their QB time to throw the ball downfield, are all the benefactors of an in-sync OL unit working and communicating to protect the integrity of each football play that the offense runs.

What does an Offensive Lineman do?

The offensive line is the true engineer of success for any offense. Responsible for creating open creases in the run game, and protecting the quarterback as he drops back to pass, their play is the determining factor in putting points on the board.

Looking at the run game, the offensive line must be in sync in order to help the offense find yardage running the ball. Regardless of what scheme is called, all 5 players must communicate to block up each play for success. Their rules are simple on paper, but made complicated from the variety of blitzes, stunts, and alignments that defenses show each game. Their ability to handle blocks 1 on 1, work combinations up to linebacker level, and pull and lead the way on the edge are all expectations of the job.

what does an offensive lineman do

In pass protection, the offensive lineman are given one job – block forever for the quarterback! Pass plays are dependent on receivers being able to have time to execute their routes, and the quarterback delivering the ball on time. Any slip ups may lead to turnovers, or constant hits on the quarterback through the game that add up – and diminish his confidence as he drops back to pass.

The same applies in pass protection, as the offensive line must apply their rules as a unit to keep the quarterback safe. As teams have begun to throw the ball more, defenses have evolved with it. Even and odd fronts, blitzes, simulated pressures are just a few ways defenses look to distract the offensive line to get to the quarterback. Offensive lineman must match their physicality and technique with football IQ in order to give the quarterback time to throw throughout the football game.

Why is it called an Offensive Lineman?

These 5 players line up on the line of scrimmage next to one another as a unit. Defensive lineman do the same on the opposite side of the ball, hence, the name offensive line is given to them.

What are some other names for the Offensive Lineman?

Abbreviation: OL

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

Big Uglies

What are the Skills and Body Type needed to play the Offensive Lineman position?


Body Type (General Estimate)
Height: 6’2-6’8
Weight: 300-340 Pounds
Build: Thick, Sturdy, Lengthy

It should be noted that the center, offensive guard, and tackle positions will differ in terms of body type.

Who are some of the best Offensive Linemen ever?

Center Position: Jim Otto (1960-1974) - Never missing a game in his 210 game career, Otto was a staple up front for the Oakland Raiders franchise. A first-ballot Hall of Famer, Otto is known to this day for his play at the center position, and his trademark "double zero" jersey number.

jim otto offensive lineman

Guard Position: John Hannah (1973-1985) - Hannah spent all 13 seasons of his career with the New England Patriots where he was a 7-time All-Pro. His dominance in the run game leaves him as one of the best offensive lineman of all time.

Tackle Position: Anthony Munoz (1980-1993) - A starting tackle for the Bengals for 13 seasons, Munoz is still viewed by some as the best offensive lineman to play the game. In 1998, Munoz was inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Why is the Offensive Line so important?

We’ve talked a bit about how the offensive line is a stat-less position, and one that isn’t highlighted all that often. However, they are sure to experience the opposite end of the spectrum, as the offensive line is a quick scapegoat for fans and outsiders to blame when things aren’t going right. This overlooked position is one that isn’t overlooked in times of crisis, and goes to show the nature of playing the most selfless position in sports.

The #1 factor in an offense’s success throughout the course of the season is the steady play of the offensive line. Some of the most talented players in football right now, guys such as Patrick Mahomes, Derrick Henry, and Davante Adams, are only able to do so much without the work of their offensive line setting the integrity of each play. With elite run and pass blocking from an offensive line unit, a world of opportunities opens up for offensive coordinators to help the stars listed above shine on Sunday’s.

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