The Philadelphia Eagles and Atlanta Falcons kicked off the 2018 NFL season Thursday night with a penalty-filled game that had nearly as many combined flags (26) as points scored (30).
Atlanta was whistled for 15 penalties of its own, which was the most for the franchise since 1990.
One flag in particular didn’t sit well with many fans and that was a roughing the passer penalty on defensive tackle Grady Jarrett.
— Deadspin (@Deadspin) September 7, 2018
For the first 98 years of the NFL, that play wasn’t even noteworthy as no flag would be thrown. Jarrett simply played through the whistle after Nick Foles released the ball.
But the NFL has implemented several new rules this season, and one of them prohibits defensive players from driving their body weight into a quarterback. The rule was inspired by Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr’s hit on Aaron Rodgers last year that ended the Green Bay quarterback’s season.
Per the rulebook: “The defender is responsible for avoiding landing on the quarterback when taking him to the ground.”
Jarrett checks in at 305 pounds, and as you would imagine, it’s hard to stop 305 pounds once it gets started, which makes this new rule very tough for defensive players.
You could even argue that Jarrett let up a bit as he took his hands off Foles while they were going to the ground. Instead of letting his full weight land on Foles, Jarrett used his own hands to help break his fall.
Recall me saying weeks ago on the show the “Aaron Rodgers rule” concerned me more long term than the helmet rule, because it’s often illogical and asking too much of pass rushers… that Jarrett play on Foles was a prime example of it.
— Jason Martin (@JMartZone) September 7, 2018
Fortunately for Atlanta, that penalty didn’t do any further damage as Philadelphia ended up punting to end that drive. (The Eagles held on for an 18-12 victory.)
If that’s how roughing the passer will be enforced all season, we can expect a lot more defensive penalties, which means longer offensive drives and more points.
The stats from the preseason make it clear that officials are on the lookout for defenders “landing on the quarterback.” There were 51 flags for roughing the passer this preseason, which was a 131.8 percent increase from the 2017 preseason.
That means we can expect to see more plays like the infamous “non-sack” of Tennessee’s Vince Young by the Giants’ Mathias Kiwanuka in 2006.
“At that point, I thought it was going to be a 15-yard penalty for roughing the passer if I threw him to the ground,” Kiwanuka said 12 years before this new rule was even implemented.
Defenders are in a tough spot, especially since they’ve been taught to hit the quarterback one way their entire football lives.
But the league is always in favor of more offense and more points, so the defenders will have to adjust if they want to survive in today’s NFL.
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