T.J. Watt on low block from T.J. Hockenson: “What can I do differently?”

Detroit Lions v Pittsburgh Steelers
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Twice in the preseason, a high-profile pass rusher has absorbed a low block at the edge of the tackle box, resulting in a knee injury. Giants defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux has missed time, and he will miss more. Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt left the game on Sunday against the Lions, but he told reporters on Wednesday that, if it had happened in a regular-season game, he would have kept playing.

The bigger question that Watt tried to address is the broader challenge of avoiding taking the kind of hit he absorbed from Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson.

“It’s a legal play, so there’s not really much we can do at the moment,” Watt told reporters.

There’s still a question of whether it’s clean. Reasonable minds can differ on that point.

The reality is that it’s how the play is drawn up. Plenty of teams use a cut block to knock down the player coming around the edge on a running play.

“What can I do differently so that doesn’t happen again?” Watt said. “And honestly, I haven’t really come up with a good solution. If I try to hurdle the guy and he doesn’t go low, it’s a whole different story, too, because obviously, that’s my gap.”

That’s the problem Watt and all other players in that situation face, especially since the cut block remains legal within the tackle box.

“I don’t know how you can really play that block and get in that ‘C’ gap area effectively, so just gonna have to try to figure it out I guess,” Watt said.

Maybe the only answer is to get rid of the cut block in all scenarios and settings. If that happens, however, smaller players will have a much harder time neutralizing larger defenders.

Over time, that ability of shorter, slighter players to apply a harder-they-fall mentality to larger, stronger guys by taking out their legs has been minimized. The only way to fully protect players like Thibodeaux and Watt would be to get rid of it entirely.

8 responses to “T.J. Watt on low block from T.J. Hockenson: “What can I do differently?”

  1. We know the NFL is not interested in giving defensive players any kind of advantage, unfortunately.

  2. TJ Watt – The guy that just straight out overhand punches people using the guise of trying to knock the ball free.

    I don’t know how I could do it differently.

  3. so serious question –

    I think it’s debatable if it’s dirty to cut block a guys legs, certainly Is an argument to be made

    But, is it dirty to take a RB down by the legs, or for a Safety to blow a wr legs up who is going up to try and pull down a pass ?

  4. It’s legal, so it’s not dirty. Let’s just start there.

    Players need to protect themselves on both sides. Defense schemes to “free up” a rusher. When this happens that rusher is full speed through the tackle box, which increases the danger of a cut block causing damage instead of just knocking a player down. TJ is right, there needs to be a new technique to avoid putting himself in a bad spot.

  5. So alleged “overhand punches” by Watt seems to irritate someone? Haven’t heard one peep out of NFL QBs re: Watts preferred method of dislodging ball. I don’t think we can say the same about cutback blocks.

  6. Teams at every level do drills to defeat cut blocks. It’s called using your hands to shove them away from your legs. He’s pretending to be clueless because he was blocked.

  7. Same can be said about the player making the block. What else can he do? The blocking and hitting area has been made smaller to protect players from LIFE CHANGING INJURIES. A torn ACL or other injuries are expected in a major contact sport and are not life changing in the way a head or neck/spinal injury is. worst case would be a season lost with modern treatments. You are playing football and accept the risks for millions of dollars. Many more dangerous jobs that pay a pittance in comparison exist so maybe stop complaining.

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