The hit by Jets guard Matt Slauson on Texans linebacker Brian Cushing is expected to spark a debate in the offseason regarding further restrictions on the use of cut blocks in the NFL.
A source with knowledge of the situation tells PFT that Slauson’s hit on Cushing, coupled with last year’s low block by Bills receiver Stevie Johnson on Chiefs safety Eric Berry, will result in the NFL taking a closer look at placing further limits on offensive players blocking defensive players below the waist.
The cut block has been part of football for as long as football has been around. It started as a matter of basic physics; little players had no effective way to block big players other than to hit the big players in the legs, knocking them down.
Roughly 40 years ago, the NFL applied the first restriction on cut blocks to special teams, preventing blockers on return units from hitting coverage players low. Since then, further refinements have been made from chop blocks to the “peel back” block for which Slauson was fined, but not penalized.
The prohibition on “peel back” blocks came, we’re told, in response to offensive linemen running down the field on a screen pass and then “peeling back” to hit an unsuspecting defender low. While it appears that Slauson hit Cushing on the front of his leg, which would make the cut block not a “peel back” block, the fact that the NFL pounced on the situation confirms the league’s interest in expanding protections for defensive players against possible knee-imploding hits.
College football already has taken steps to make additional cut blocks illegal, via a confusing distinction that applies to players moving toward the sideline (legal) and players moving toward the middle of the field (illegal). Look for the NFL to seriously consider doing something more clear, especially as it relates to cut blocks applied in the open field.