O-line scheming in the AFC West

Offensive line schemes have become important in the AFC West recently.

It appears the Oakland Raiders will likely move from a zone-blocking scheme to a power-blocking scheme. Oakland just hired Bob Wylie to run the offense. Wylie specializes in a power-blocking scheme. Former Oakland coach Tom Cable used a zone-blocking scheme.

Wylie coached the offensive line in Denver in 2009. Former coach Josh McDaniels moved away from the zone-blocking scheme that Mike Shanahan used and that McDaniels adopted in 2008. Wylie was not retained by new Denver coach John Fox. There has been speculation that Fox could move back to a zone-blocking scheme but Fox hasn’t publicly made any announcements.

A reader, Drew in Denver, who said he is a Raider fan, asked if we could explain the differences in the two schemes so he can know what to expect if Oakland makes the scheme switch. I enlisted Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. to discuss the differences. Here are his thoughts:

“The zone-blocking scheme depends on athletic, smaller linemen who can move together. When used correctly, it opens up the running game and works well with a downhill runner. The thing about using the zone-blocking scheme is you don’t have to spend a first-round pick on a lineman. You can look for smaller, athletic guys and find them in the later rounds. I don’t have a preference between the zone or power scheme. Both can be effective.

“The power-blocking scheme is traditional and a lot of teams use it. You get big, 300-pound plus fat, strong powerful guys and tell them to go knock down their guy. It’s straight forward, go-get ‘em scheme that a lot of teams use.”

Williamson said while both schemes can be effective, it is difficult to make the transition because the two schemes are so drastically different as far as personnel goes. It takes awhile to successfully switch because it’s difficult to find a new group of linemen to use the new scheme.

Williamson said doesn’t think Oakland should switch because it was effective using the zone-blocking scheme. Oakland had the No. 2 ranked run offense in the NFL last season.

“I don’t think they have great offensive linemen, but they got a lot lot out of the in the run game,” Williamson said. “Darren McFadden could be good in the power-blocking scheme, too, but why change? It’s going to take a long time to get new personnel to fit the scheme if that’s what they are going to do. I know coach Hue Jackson came from Baltimore and he is used to that AFC North power scheme, but I just don’t why Oakland would mess with its run-game success.”

Williamson said Denver has personnel to fit both schemes because it made the move last year. He doesn’t think second-year center J.D. Walton and second-year guard Zane Beadles are good fits for the zone-blocking scheme while the other linemen can work in both. Williamson said the Broncos might want to stick with the power-blocking scheme for now because they need to use all draft and free-agency resources on a defense that was ranked last in the NFL last year.