Countering cut blocks isn’t rocket science


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.

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36 responses to “Countering cut blocks isn’t rocket science

  1. Defensive players can’t count on the NFL to protect them. The proper way to deal with the chop blocks is to take out the offensive linemen that try to take out your defenders. There’s nothing illegal about “falling” on the side or back of a offensive lineman’s leg.

  2. It’s a shady tactic, which makes it perfect for the Steelers.

    They still lost by a 7 to 1 ratio, but isn’t almost isn’t a season until Pittsburgh shames themselves.

  3. You take a step back and push the blocker to the ground when they are cutting. If you have your hands on a blocker while another one is coming at you low, you are not going to be able to use this tactic.

  4. And you know damn well…..That cut back blocks, illegal or legal….Will Be on GODells fine list from last weekend on…..As sure as the sun rises….

  5. 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.

    As the Titans made it out to be? How do you know Gray wasn’t talking about the same fighting fire with fire (taking out the low blocker, etc.) that you’re talking about here?

    No defensive lineman in the league likes playing against teams that predominantly cut block. Can you blame them? But it’s not like Gray was whining about it. You sure chose to read an awful lot of stuff into his words.

  6. Whether or not it is technically illegal simply because a tackle and center are doing it rather than a tackle and guard, the result is the same: more defensive lineman will suffer knee injuries because of this cheap shot technique. It seems ridiculous to allow it.

  7. This is a complete non-issue. The only reason people are even talking about it is because the Steelers either (1) do not know the rule, or (2) chose to deflect attention off their incredibly poor performance.

    I hope it’s the second, because this has been a legal part of the game longer than the forward pass. Players deal with it starting in pee-wee football.

  8. That or get d-lineman to prop up the offending offensive linemen and then have a safety take his knees out. Then explain that if you keep on going for our knees we are coming for yours.

    Mutually assured destruction worked for nuclear weapons. It will work for cheap shots as well.

    Obviously the officials cannot be trusted upon to root this out of the game.

  9. Bill Walsh’s Niners used cut blocks all the time. So did the Broncos under Shanny. It’s a standard West Coast run game tactic.

    Where a DL gets hurt is when someone else hits them or rolls onto their leg.

    I think if you look back at the history of the game, you’ll see there were not a predominance of knee injuries on teams that played the Niners and Broncs.

  10. If you think it’s easy to defeat a hi lo block then you’re an idiot that knows nothing about football and shouldn’t be in charge of a football blog.


    When is the last time a defensive lineman was hurt on a legal cut? Seriously. When? Sure, it happens, but at the same rate as any other legal maneuver on the football field. This is a game of tackles and hits. But apparently, when someone does it against the Steelers, the entire Steeler Nation has to show up and show how uneducated they are about not only the rules, but the reality that their team uses the same blocking technique.

    6 rings of stupidity.

    It’s a fully legal tactic, and many offensive line coaches have made a living teaching this for years. Many defensive line coaches make a living countering it.

    Based on the comments by MORONS on this site, you’d think the Ravens just invented this last week.

    The hypocrisy around here is frankly, blatant. Everyone bitches about how defenses can’t hit QB’s, but those same exact fools are complaining about cut blocks that A) rarely cause injury in their legal form, and B) are used all the time by their own teams.

  12. So let me get this straight….the drill involved rolling Rex Ryan on the ground like a big beach ball into the D-linemen’s legs…..

  13. hotdog113 says: Sep 17, 2011 11:25 AM

    2 of those rings were handed to them by the refs.


    That is because the refs are on our side! Did you see all those fights we started after the whistle last Sunday with no calls or fines. How much you want to bet extra penalties are called on the ratbirds since we talked about thier blocking.

  14. Would blame you, but I’m embarrassed Steelers have been whining about blocks. They disrespected Johnny Mitchell, our 16-year d-line coach who’s seen it all and can game plan without Rex’s help.

  15. Enough already. The Steelers should be ashamed of themselves. Instead of taking the high road, they have repeatedly acted like they were somehow wronged. They lost 35-7 in a game where they got a few calls in their favor (just like almost every game – see Miami game last year). However, the game was so out of hand, that those favorable calls could not save them.

    Talk about sore losers. I’ve said all along that the Ravens need to blow out the Steelers if they ever intend to beat them. That way they can keep the zebras at bay too. There have been far too many questionable calls in the past. All those years of them getting special treatment made them spoiled children. Now they are crying for that special treatment again. The question now is: Will the NFL oblige? Is there a Miami-type game down the road?

    Tomorrow is week two. Let’s move forward for this week’s matchups. The crying party should be over by now.

  16. @edgarpoe2 …

    Wow, I’m impressed! You were allowed to write three whole paragraphs. I’ve been blocked at about 20 words. I’ve been a good sport about the loss, but guess NBC finds women on football blogs dangerous.

  17. Yeah, little thumbs-down people, you wouldn’t be thrilled if you’d composed a reasonable, intelligent one-paragraph message criticizing your own team and it was rejected 15 times until you cut it to one sentence. It’s idiotic.

  18. so let me get this straight. you’re taking a career braggart’s word that he designed this “really easy” technique to be “really successful?”

    Stop drinking rex ryan’s koolaid. when he actually makes it to a super bowl or wins his division then he can talk about how smart he is.

  19. I hear what Rex is saying but when I look at some of the highlights with Ray Rice running wild, they where illegally chop blocking Casey Hampton. The center can’t hold Hampton up and the Guard chop him down. I don’t have a dog in the fight with both teams but some plays (not all) where illegal.

  20. May I finally post that I saw safety Ryan Clark on your program and he handled the Ravens loss with dignity and no whining? Pity he wasn’t the only Steeler talking last week.

  21. Delusional…that’s all that can be said for the Steelers haters here. A couple of defensive lineman make a comment to a local paper about chop blocking, thats it.

    It wasn’t offered as an excuse, it wasn’t even addressed by the coaching staff but that didn’t stop the morons here to speculate upon rumor and inuendo.

    Let me sum up the Baltimore fans. You whined and cried for years that the Colts had been stolen from you and how can anyone stoop so low. You know just as you stole the Browns from Cleveland. You were such a great fan base that the home opener of season two was blacked out because you couldn’t sell out against the Raiders. You cheered when your QB Kyle Boller was injured and carted off the field plus dozens of other examples of crap behavior.

    Your 13 and 21 against us wake me when you get to 0.500.

  22. Deb says:
    @edgarpoe2 …

    Wow, I’m impressed! You were allowed to write three whole paragraphs. I’ve been blocked at about 20 words. I’ve been a good sport about the loss, but guess NBC finds women on football blogs dangerous.
    I have had some well-thought out posts never make it here too. I never understand why one gets posted and another doesn’t.

    You have indeed been a good sport. My comments were out of frustration over all the lame excuses on this site and others. (I remember when you asked for no excuses before the game.)

  23. The best way to deal with it is to crush Ngata’s knee. Then the Ravens and their pathetic fans will be crying foul.

  24. @edgarpoe2 …

    Sometimes I’m blocked and sometimes capped at 3 lines–which is very personal and makes no sense to me. Would say Cheetah runs the place, but he’s an ape not an ass 😉

  25. Seriously Steeler fans are still talking about this? It only shows how pathetic they are as a fan base. Take the loss, move on, and the Ravens will do it again to your team in November.

  26. @ravenator … Huh? Our fans didn’t write the article.

    @halftermguv … True, but complaining about calls after losing looks like whining. We’d be saying that if the tables were turned.

    @fancyleague … No.

  27. @Deb … Yes.

    The blocks in question had no significant role in the play. The scumbag Ravens were trying to take Hampton’s knee. They obviously got to the point where they told themselves they couldn’t win otherwise. Sad, silly Ravens. When we take out Ngata’s knee, your season will be over too.

  28. @fancyleague …

    If they intentionally tried to take out Hampton’s knee, karma will get them. But we don’t have to take out Ngata to win. If we do, we don’t deserve to win. GO STEELERS!

  29. disclaimer: this story was written by a 110lb white male who has never so much as worn a football helmet let alone had a 350lb man diving at his knees jeopardizing his health and his ability to earn a living. i’m 6’5″, 260. i can tell you this: dudes lunging at your knees: one of the worst feelings in the world. cowardly. man up, stand up, toes on the line and let’s see what you’ve got. ratbirds are cowards.

  30. @deb

    actually, i was talking about your fans who still complain, who still don’t realize the blocks were legit, who still try and downplay it. Just because you acknowledged defeat, doesn’t mean everyone else has. It’s just pathetic that this is still an issue. We’ll see again if the Steelers have an answer for our running scheme when we play again in November. I doubt they will though, just saying 🙂

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