2016 rule changes
One of the more dangerous situations for a defender is the chop block, and players will have more protection in the 2016 season now that the NFL has made all chop blocks illegal.
A chop block is essentially a high/low block — often it is confused with a cut block, when a single player initiates a block below the waist of a defender. A chop block occurs when one blocker engages a defender above the waist while a second blocker initiates contact below the same defender’s thigh. In the following clip, we can see that the running back initiates a block below the waist of the defender that is already engaged. The defender has no way to defend himself from the blow to his knee.
— Troy Vincent (@TroyVincent23) April 14, 2016
Chop blocks previously were allowed under two circumstances: If the block was delivered by two players who were initially adjacent to each other on the line, or were separated by only one player, and were blocking in the same direction as the flow of a running play. The changes to Rule 12-2-3 eliminates these exceptions and makes all chop blocks illegal.
In addition, the lure chop block, where a player sets to engage a defender who is then blocked low, is still considered an illegal chop block.
This rule change is for the purpose of player safety. The chop block, with contact coming on different parts of the defender’s body and often from different directions, can put the defender in a physically dangerous situation. Defensive linemen getting chopped have been particularly susceptible to knee injuries. There is not any effective way to defend against a chop block so many defensive personnel have been pushing for a change over the past two or three years.
Because a running play has predictable flow, and high/low contact around a runner’s path is typically inadvertent, there were exceptions to the chop block rule. However, continued injuries to defensive linemen made the rule change necessary. Any time a blocker initiates a block at the thigh or lower, and a teammate blocks the same player above the waist it will be a foul. It will not be a foul if the defender initiates the contact above the waist, or if the blocker is trying to escape the defender and any engagement with him is incidental.
Along with many of the safety-based rule changes, there are several detractors to the change. There is belief among a few coaches and linemen that without the ability to chop on running plays it will be nearly impossible for backside linemen to reach their play-side assignments on running plays. Previously the initial contact by a front-side lineman provided the trailing lineman to catch up and chop the defender, but now the offense will have to figure out a new tactic.
Patrick Weber has joined Football Zebras as a contributing writer. This is one of what we hope are many posts from him. Welcome, Patrick.