According to former NFL head of officiating Mike Pereira, during the NFL officiating clinic that took place yesterday, officials were briefed on various points of emphasis regarding the upcoming season, and the headliner from the event was unquestionably the new emphasis on illegal contact and defensive holding.
As Pereira Tweeted: “More offense!”
According to a follow-up Tweet, illegal contact was last a point of emphasis during the 2004 season, during which such fouls skyrocketed from 79 in 2003 to an astounding 191, which is nearly .75 per regular season game, assuming the number cited applies only to the regular season.
The average score of an NFL game during the 2004 season was 48 points, which Pereira believes to be an all-time record.
The rulebook has only become increasingly lopsided toward the offense in the past decade. Could we be in for another record-breaking offensive output league-wide in 2014?
Unfortunately, neither he nor I believe that is a truly balanced offset, given the infrequency of the call in relation to its defensive opposite. Wide receivers are only becoming more and more difficult to defend as they grow taller and stronger.
The better cornerbacks tend to be the ones that better disguise their interference, as there is a shortage of defensive backs that can match up with the new age of receivers that seem to begin at 6’2” and go on up from there.
The Pittsburgh Steelers may consider themselves fortunate for having two starting cornerbacks that are 6’2” and 6’1”, though it must be said that both of them are currently in the final years of their respective contracts.
In addition to that, you have to search long and hard after those two to find one that can even claim to approach the six foot mark.
Of those likely to make the roster, six foot rookie Shaquille Richardson is the only other cornerback above 5’10”. The only other defensive backs six feet or taller are Will Allen and newcomer Mike Mitchell.
That’s not to say of course that shorter cornerbacks cannot be successful defenders against tall wide receivers, though doing so is more difficult, especially so when their every hand placement is going to be scrutinized for penalty consideration this season.