What Does Illegal Double Team Block Mean In NFL

Last Updated on October 13, 2023 by Alex PT

An illegal double-team block in the NFL is when two players on the receiving team block a player on the kicking team who was not lined up in the setup zone. This zone extends 15 yards behind the receiving team’s restraining line.

What Does Illegal Double Team Block Mean In NFL

In the NFL, an illegal double-team block refers to a specific blocking technique used by offensive players during a play. Blocking is a crucial aspect of football, where offensive players aim to protect their quarterback or create running lanes for the ball carrier, while defensive players attempt to disrupt these efforts. A double team block involves two offensive players simultaneously blocking a single defensive player.

However, the NFL has rules in place to ensure player safety and maintain the fairness of the game. One such rule, found in Rule 12-1-4 of the NFL rulebook, prohibits an illegal double-team block. This rule states that a double-team block is only legal if it occurs initially at or behind the line of scrimmage. If the double team block takes place beyond the line of scrimmage or if it is initiated by players who were originally positioned on opposite sides of the line of scrimmage, it is considered illegal.

The purpose of this rule is to prevent excessive force and potential injuries that can result from two offensive players concentrating their efforts on a single defender. It also promotes fair competition by limiting the advantage an offensive team can gain through double-team blocking techniques.

The Setup Zone

At this point, you may be wondering what the setup zone is. In 2018 when these rule changes were made the NFL created the setup zone.

This zone is fifteen yards in length starting from the line of scrimmage where the kickoff starts. The new rules state that at least eight of the eleven kick return players must start the play in the setup zone.

All of these eight players in the setup zone are allowed to double-team block.

It is the players who are not in the setup zone that are going to be called for an illegal double-team block.

Stopping The Wedge

The main that this rule was put into place was in order to stop the wedge on kick returns. If you think back to older kick returns you may remember several players running hand in hand in front of the kick returner.

These several blockers moving together were referred to as a wedge. Stopping the wedge is the reason that the illegal double-team rule was put into place.

In 2009 the NFL put in a place a rule to reduce the number of players allowed in a wedge from two down to three. The reason for this rule was to improve player safety.

Often times on kick returns the kicking team realized in order to bring down the returner they would have to take out the wedge. One of the best strategies for doing this was to send a single player to blow up the wedge.

This player would run full speed and contact the wedge in an attempt to knock them apart. This was quite a violent play and often led to the injury. This is why the NFL reduced the wedge.

Now, by adding the illegal double-team block no players will be able to form a wedge. Previously the wedge was always formed by players close to the kick returner.

With the new rules regarding the setup, the zone player will no longer be able to form a wedge. Since there are only three players outside the setup zone only two will end up acting as blockers.

If these two blockers work together they will be called for an illegal double-team penalty. This effectively has stopped wedges from being created on kick returners.

This rule paired with the increased touchback distance has led to increased player safety on kick returns in the NFL. 


We’ve made a list of the frequently asked questions and answers about illegal double-team blocks in the NFL. Let’s go through them! 

What Is An Illegal Crackback Block?

An illegal crackback block penalty occurs when a player committing a crackback block makes contact below the waist. This puts the player getting blocked at risk for a gruesome injury. Crackback blocks aim to stop defenders in their tracks in order to allow an offensive player with the ball to get around the defender.

Is Blocking Allowed In NFL?

Cut blocks are legal unless a defensive player is engaged by another offensive player. Although some consider the technique unsportsmanlike because of the risk of serious injury, when taught and applied correctly it is a very effective tactic.

Is It Legal To Block A Player In The Back In Football?

An illegal block in the back is a penalty called in football when a player on the offensive or kicking team makes contact above the waist with an opposing player who doesn’t have the ball. This penalty results in a 10-yard penalty from the spot of the foul.

Is Excessive Blocking A Penalty In Football?

Note: if the defender touches or blocks the ball, then the penalty is not called. … If the referee determines the player used excessive force, then it is a 15-yard penalty and automatic first down.

Closing Thoughts 

An illegal wedge is defined as three or more players lined up shoulder-to-shoulder within two yards of each other. A double-team block is defined as two players from the setup zone coming together in an attempt to block for the runner. Note: A “wedge block” is not permitted at any time

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