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Illegal Block: Chop Block In Football Explained

A chop block in football is a type of football block that is both illegal and highly dangerous. It can often be seen with interior offensive linemen. What exactly is a chop block in football and why is it illegal?

A chop block is when an offensive lineman blocks a defensive lineman up high, and then another offensive lineman blocks the defensive lineman below the waist. This is often known as a “high-low block” and is penalized 15 yards.

In this article, we’ll break down the chop block in football and show why it’s illegal and dangerous.

Chop Block In Football

The chop block in football can be seen on both run plays and on pass plays. Chop blocks often occur when there is miscommunication between one offensive lineman and another.

For example, if the center determines that he is going to block the defensive lineman down low, and the guard is going to help with that block by blocking them low, this is where the chop block occurs.

The center and guard should communicate if they are going to cut block or if they are going to block up high before the ball is snapped.

Chop Block Referee Signal
Chop Block In Football Referee Signal

Chop block penalties can hurt an offense because it is penalized 15 yards. 15 yard penalties will often force the offense into 2nd and 20+ situations. Most coaches aren’t prepared for these long situations and will have to force the football down the field.

In order to avoid these penalties, it’s important for the offensive lineman to communicate when one is going to block low. This way, they can always anticipate that all blocks will be high.

Difference Between Chop Block & Cut Block

People will often confuse chop blocking and cut blocking. While they are similar, one results in a penalty, while the other results in a successful legal block.

The chop block, as explained above, is a result of when two offensive linemen block a defensive lineman up high and down low.

A cut block is when an offensive lineman blocks the defensive player in the legs. It’s called a cut block because the offensive player is cutting or taking down the defensive player at their base.

The cut block is legal and only requires players to block the defensive player below the waist.

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Rules Of The Cut Block

Each league (professional, college, high school) has their own rules regarding the cut block. Below are the rules on cut blocking for each league:

  • NFL – The NFL allows for players to cut blocks anywhere on the field
  • College – NCAA rules allow for players to cut anywhere on the field
  • High School – Players are only allowed to cut blocks within the first 3 seconds of the play. The defensive player must be lined up on the line of scrimmage in order to cut block. Players are not allowed to cut blocks in space or after the line of scrimmage.

When initiating a cut block, players should aim for the thighs, that way, they successfully knock the player to the ground. Cut blocks can be useful for linemen to put other bigger linemen on the ground easily. The constant contact on the legs will eventually slow down the defensive player.

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Next Steps

While these two blocks are similar, it’s important to know the difference. One block is legal (in some leagues), while another is highly illegal. It’s important to teach your players the difference.

Be sure to research the rules within your league to know when you can legal use a cut block and when you can’t. Knowing and teaching these rules are the difference between getting a penalty and playing a clean game.

If you want to learn more about referee signals and the rules of football, we recommend reading this article which has all of the rules of football.