Pulling is one of those terms that is just kind of thrown around in football jargon. You might have heard commentators say something like “they used a pulling guard,” or “so-and-so pulled to the left to create the lane on that play.” This is actually one of those times when it is what it sounds like – kind of. Let’s break it down!
Pulling is when a player, usually a lineman (offense or defense), leaves their regular assignment and moves to the other side of the field.
Why would a player (or players) pull to the other side? Usually, to stack the offense on one side and create a running lane for a back or receiver. We saw this last week with a couple of screen pass concepts: one side of the line pulls to the other side to create a screen of protection for the ball carrier. But it happens in other types of plays on offense – and defense, too. Defensive linemen can also pull to stop the action they anticipate coming from a particular side.
Here’s a slow breakdown of what pulling looks like from an offensive line perspective:
And here’s what it looks like when humans do it:
And here’s what it looks like in a game – a college game – but still, same concept. Watch how the right guard (57) and the left guard (66) pull in unison to the right to create a lane for the running back (5):
See how it works? Whenever you see linemen pulling, you can expect to see action in whichever direction they are heading.