This week, an unexpected controversy erupted regarding the use of cut blocks by the Baltimore Ravens. The Steelers complained that the Ravens were engaged in illegal chop blocks that the officials didn’t penalize in Week One. Titans defensive coordinator Jerry Gray said that his team will essentially fight fire with fire, looking for a way to “hurt” the Ravens who hit defensive linemen low.
Blocking a defender who already is engaged, as we explained and as Ravens coach John Harbaugh confirmed Friday, becomes illegal only when the offensive linemen performing the maneuver weren’t lined up next to each other at the snap. Harbaugh defended his team’s tactics, and presumably the Ravens have no plan to stop using cut blocks.
So what should defenders do to deal with the tactic? The smart approach is to push to the ground the offensive lineman who is coming in low, and who is likely off balance. Since the guy engaging the defender high typically is looking to peel off and head to the next level, a defender who can deflect the cut block could end up being completely unblocked.
As explained during Friday’s PFT Live, Jets coach Rex Ryan has used what he calls a “big ball drill.” The exercise, done throughout training camp and periodically thereafter, entails pushing a large ball into the legs of defensive linemen as they try to stay on their feet and simultaneously push the ball away. It worked so well during Ryan’s time as defensive coordinator of the Ravens in preparing linemen to face teams that use cut/zone blocking that Ryan proclaimed he should seek a patent on the technique.
Bottom line? It’s not as big of an issue as the Steelers and Titans have made it out to be. And the best way to deal with the situation isn’t to complain about it, but to find a way to overcome it.