Cut blocks are already a hot topic of discussion around the NFL. With the injury to Pittsburgh Steelers Center Maurkice Pouncey coming from a cut block from his own teammate, Ndamukong Suh taking a fine for an illegal cut block in the Detroit Lions week 1 win over Minnesota, and the San Francisco 49ers have lost their nose tackle, Ian Williams, to a broken ankle following a cut block from Seattle guard J.R. Sweez, cut blocks remain a highly debated topic around the league.
The NFL attempted to reduce cut blocks over the offseason by banning peel-back blocks inside the tackle box but a lot of players feel like they should go further on the blocking bans.
The NFL rule book describes an illegal chop bock as:
A chop block is a foul by the offense in which one offensive player (designated A1 for purposes of this rule) block a defensive player in the area of the thigh or lower while another offensive player (A2) occupies that same defensive player in one of the circumstances described in subsections (1) though (10). The rulebook then goes on to give the circumstances which include chop blocking on passing plays; before and after engagement and with a lure, a reverse chop block on a pass, and then chop blocking on a run or kicking plays.
Cut blocking isn’t only a legal play in the NFL; it’s one of the basic elements to the zone-blocking scheme that most offenses utilize around the league. Even though it’s highly common and highly utilized around the NFL it still has many critics. San Francisco 49er LB Patrick Willis feels it’s a cheap shot.
“I feel like as a linebacker or a D-lineman, any cut, it’s a man sport – be a man, hit me up high. Hit like rams. You don’t see a ram going and cutting another ram’s legs. They hit head to head, pad to pad.” – Patrick Willis
The Pittsburgh Steelers defense has never been fans of cut blocking, but in spite of the feelings on the defense, their offensive line has employed the zone-blocking scheme for this season. Unfortunately the biggest results from the new implementation came in the form of G David DeCastro misjudging his cut-block attempt to Tennessee Titans Sammie Hill and hitting Maurkice Pouncey instead. Pouncey tore almost everything in his knee ending in a “CL” and is out for the remainder of the season. The Steelers defensive players still aren’t fans of the cut blocks, but realize it’s unlikely they’d be banned in the league anytime soon.
“As far as I am concerned, it is a block that I can do without. The game wouldn’t suffer without it, but it isn’t something I see that’s going to be taken out of the game anytime soon.” – Ryan Clark
It makes you wonder why the NFL, so hell bent on making the game safer, or so it seems, isn’t jumping all over this opportunity to take an element out of the game that leads to injuries. Maybe it’s because the cut blocks are a part of the West Coast offensive scheme that has helped make the NFL the offensive juggernaut it wants to stay being. Maybe it’s because there wasn’t a class-action lawsuit from a bunch of retired defensive lineman who have no use for their legs anymore after sustaining years of cut-blocking injuries during their playing days. Who knows? I agree with the defensive players, the game can still be played without the cut-blocks, so why not?