Welcome to the Sweat Hog Series, the series for the football fan just getting into the sport who does not yet know the difference between the three types of big men up front offensively.
This is the second installment of my three-installment series on offensive line positions. This position is my favorite of the three. Bias makes that the case, almost nothing else. I played the position for the entirety of my four-year high school career. So without further ado, here is what separates offensive guard from the other line positions.
The primary thing that makes guard different than center or tackle is the higher demand for athleticism. There are a number of run plays an offense may try to execute that involve a pull for a guard (a pull is when an offensive lineman leaves his position to run around or behind a fellow offensive lineman to open a hole or lead for a back). These pulls require great technique, explosiveness, agility, and in some cases, good ol’ fashioned speed.
Note that athleticism is still an important part of a tackle’s game, that will be covered in the next installment.
Here are two classic examples of plays with a pulling guard, the trap and the sweep.
On this diagram, the play-side defensive tackle (the “T” on the right) is left unblocked at the snap of the ball. The left offensive guard in this play (player left of the double circle in the middle) pulls to his right and needs to secure a block on the defender before the running back (circle at the bottom) arrives in the hole. To complete the block successfully, the player needs power off the snap to get a good initial pull, quickness to cover roughly three yards horizontally as fast as possible, explosiveness to drive into the defender, and agility to adjust to any movements the defensive tackle may make in open space.
On this play, we see another pull from an offensive guard, this time the right one. The initial pull requires the same technique and quickness off the snap. But this time, more speed is required to get out in front and lead for the back going up-field.
A higher demand for athleticism means guards can come with slightly smaller frames than offensive tackles. According to this chart made by sprayberry football adapted from an issue of Pro Football Weekly, the typical offensive guard is two inches shorter than the typical tackle, running the fastest 40-yard dash time of the three line positions.
In pass protection, guards need strong, fast hands and quick feet with powerful legs. Typically they will be matched up on a defensive tackle, where leg strength plays a big factor in trying to slow a bull rush. Usually a guard is the first option to pick up a blitzing linebacker on the inside. Picking up a blitz is an art form that demands quick feet. Shifts have to be made to take over various assignments.
To conclude, in the title I called this position the hybrid of the line. An offensive guard has to be both powerful and fast. Whether that is getting outside to lead a sweep or picking up the blitz in pass protection.