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Consequences of Removing the Chop Block: Ryan Edwards

Consequences of Removing the Chop Block

Ryan Edwards

The celebration is underway as the NFL has, once and for all, abolished the chop block! If you missed the parades, it’s understandable as there weren’t any. In fact, most NFL fans believed the chop block was illegal to begin with and there was some confusion as to why this was still allowed in the NFL until now. In the passing game, the chop block has always been illegal. In the run game, however, there were legal ways to cut block a defensive player at the legs while he was engaged with another player. Mark Schlereth broke it down Tuesday morning on Schlereth and Evans.

Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

“The bottom line, it effects a small percentage of [teams] but it really is detrimental to a team like the Broncos who run those plays and run them a ton,” said Schlereth. “It comes down to wide zone handoff. When you as the guard are on the backside of a wide handoff play and you are ‘scooping’ to the second level to the linebacker. If you are the guard and you have a defensive tackle on you, you try to post him and avoid him to get to the second level. And while you are posting the defensive tackle and trying to avoid him, the tackle swoops in at his legs and cuts him in half. The issue defensive players have with it, if you are playing against me and someone comes at your legs while you’re reading me, as the guard.”

It’s a good breakdown from Mark on what HAS been legal up until now. According to Coach Kubiak, this will definitely have an effect on the way the Broncos approach the run game next season.

“It definitely changes some things,” said Coach Kubiak about the rule change. “I know we have big conversations about it today. I’ve seen some of the film. It will be interesting to see some of the conversations that we have today. That definitely changes some of your teachings of your techniques.”

Mark Schlereth’s concern goes beyond the inconvenience of teaching a different style of blocking along the offensive line. The league has made huge strides to improve the perception of player safety, but removing the chop block could have unintended consequences.

Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

“In an effort to make the game safer you’ve actually made it less safe from the neck up,” said Schlereth. “It punishes the teams that run the wide zone play, like the Broncos. There’s always the rule of unintended consequences. When you’re cutting down the backside, there’s not a lot of helmet-to-helmet contact…not a lot of head trauma. Now that [the chop block is] illegal, you have to stay up and there’s more risk for head trauma. Now you may have to run counter and power, which involves pulling lineman and having a massive collision with a defensive end.”

Schlereth may have a great point here with the notion that removing the chop block may create other, unintended, injuries as a result. Sure, there may be fewer leg and knee injuries for defensive lineman and that is obviously important for player safety. In fact, if you ask most of the younger players in the league, they would prefer to be hit from the chest up instead of the legs because concussions don’t end your season or career but an ACL injury will. It’s short-sighted by the players, as we have learned over the past decade, to think repeated head trauma can’t influence you for the rest of your life. Unless, of course, you are Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and think it’s “absurd” to use CTE and NFL in the same sentence, but that’s a topic for another day.

Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

“As a league, you continue to diminish the value of playing a physical game at the line of scrimmage,” said Schlereth on his frustrations about the NFL’s direction with the rule changes. “You entice everybody to throw it fifty-five times a game. Part of protecting a quarterback is running the ball. We can’t run the ball anymore because you continue to eliminate the rules that allow us to run the ball. You’re going to have more injuries to those [QB] positions. Under the guise of ‘lets make the game safer’, you have actually opened yourself up to more injuries in my estimation.”

The Broncos will adjust, obviously. This off-season, the team has done a great job upgrading the offensive line, adding tackles Donald Stephenson and Russell Okung in free agency. There is more flexibility along the o-line which could create new opportunities for the players that are here in an amended blocking scheme.

The NFL is likely doing the right thing here as they continually focus efforts on trying to make the game safer for current and future generations of players. However, if Schlereth is correct, the consequences of these changes could impact the amount of head trauma we see from the NFL going forward which is worrisome. Unless, of course, you’re Jerry Jones who thinks it’s “absurd” for anyone to be worried about head trauma in the NFL.

Ryan Edwards

@ryanedwards1043

TOP PHOTO CREDIT: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports