Chop Block In Football Explained

Chop Block In Football Explained

The football game thrives on strategy and calculated assault. Within that aggression, there is a fine line between an effective block and dangerous tactics. The chop block stands right at this edge. It is important to know what chop block is, its legal and illegal applications, as well as the risks involved for both players and fans.

Chop Block In Football Explained

What’s a Chop Block, and Why Should You Care?

Chop blocking occurs when one offensive player (blocker A) tries to knock down a defensive player low (at or below the thigh), while another offensive player (blocker B) simultaneously engages the defender above his waist. This “high-low” technique can be very effective in opening up running lanes, but it’s also a heavily regulated move because of its potential to cause serious injuries.

Knowing the legalities and risks surrounding chop blocks empowers players to execute them safely within the rules and encourages fans to appreciate the strategic considerations behind them.

Dissecting The Chop Block: Legal vs Illegal

As discussed earlier, the legality of a chop block depends on when blockers are positioned on the field. Here’s how it breaks down:

Legal Chop Blocks:

  • Double Team Blocks: When both blockers engage the defender simultaneously (within a split second), it’s considered a legal double team block, not a chop block.
  • Run-Blocking Scenarios: In certain run-blocking situations, blocker A might make incidental contact with the defender’s lower legs while primarily blocking above the waist. As long as the primary block remains high, this is legal.

Illegal Chop Blocks:

  • Sequence Matters: If blocker A targets the defender’s legs after blocker B has already established a high block, it’s an out-and-out illegitimate chop block.
  • Deceptive Techniques: Blocking techniques that mask such movements as faking high before going low by blocker A are against NFL regulations.
  • Chop Blocks on Kick Plays and Passing Plays: Since 2016, chop blocks have been entirely banned on kicking plays and passing plays in most professional and collegiate leagues.

Remember, the main goal is to avoid unexpectedly taking away defenders’ legs.

The Balancing Act: Player Safety And Strategic Advantage

The NFL and NCAA have come up with strict rules on chop-blocking because of its high risk of causing knee and leg injuries for defenders. Ligament ruptures and other incapacitating damages can keep players out for many months, endangering their careers. Again, the focus here is player protection.

However, offensive linemen still need tools to open running lanes. Legal chop blocks, when used strategically and within the rules, can be an effective way of chilling down defenders and creating space for runners. This creates a dynamic tension between offensive strategy and player safety, making the proper execution of chop blocks a crucial skill for offensive linemen.

The Dark Side Of The Chop Block: Penalties And Risks

When a team commits a chop block infraction, this results in a heavy loss of 15 yards by that particular offense. This can completely derail a promising drive and severely hurt offensive momentum. However, illegal chop blocks go far beyond penalties because they pose significant hazards to both the attacking offense and its opponent’s defense.

  • Defensive Player Risks: Just like I mentioned before, the defender who becomes a target of this foul tackle stands at high risk of severe knee or leg injuries that may end his football career.
  • Offensive Player Risks: If the offensive player delivering the low block makes awkward contact with the defender’s leg, they also expose themselves to potential injuries, particularly to their ankles and knees.

The Price of Power: Injury Concerns with Chop Blocks

There’s no doubt about the efficiency of chop blocks; they can nullify key defenders and create running lanes for the offense. However, that efficacy comes at a price.

  • High Injury Risk: Defenders are prone to knee and leg injuries because chop blocks target lower areas. Ligament ruptures and fractures are some of the most common results.
  • Long-Term Impact: Serious injuries disrupt careers and permanently affect players’ overall health. The potential for long-term damage is a growing concern for leagues and player associations.

Protecting the Game’s Assets: Mitigating Injury Risks

Leagues and organizations are working hard to deal with safety concerns related to chop blocks.

  • Rule Changes: Penalties for illegal chop blocks have become more stringent. Leagues are also fine-tuning definitions to ensure clear distinctions between legal and illegal blocking styles.
  • Coaching Emphasis: This involves teaching proper blocking techniques which entail safety first but still provide an edge in terms of strategy.
  • Technological Advancements: Developers now produce better knee guards as well as leg pads for enhanced protection during matches.

Beyond the Block: Strategic Considerations

Chop blocks require both offensive and defensive planning.

  • Offensive Strategy: Chop blocks are prominently featured in short-yardage situations or run plays where there needs to be an open space for runners to run through.
  • Defensive Countermeasures: Double-teaming or zone blocking can help defenses predict and counter chop blocks.
  • Ethical Considerations: Coaches face ethical challenges when using a potentially dangerous practice that might give their side an edge.

A Legacy of Evolution and Controversy: Chop Blocks Through the Ages

In football, chop blocks have changed significantly over the years.

  • Early Days: During the early years of football, there were hardly any constraints on blocking methods, which made it rife with dangerous chop blocks.
  • Rule Changes and Reforms: As awareness of injury risks increased, rules were instituted to curb chop blocks and encourage safer blocking techniques.
  • The Future of Chop Blocks: The debate regarding chop blocks is ongoing, with potential future rule changes aimed at enhancing safety for players.


In football, chop blocks are not an easy issue. They provide tactical benefits on the field, but they also potentially threaten player safety. Leagues, coaches, and players must find a delicate balance – prioritizing safety while maintaining the competitive spirit of the game. Understanding these dangers is vital when creating appropriate measures for improving security that will address them adequately. Finally, by recognizing how complicated cut-blocking can be, we hope to create a game that is safer and more sustainable for all involved parties.

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