The NFL’s new helmet rule is all the rage these days. Everyone is talking about it. About how dumb it is.
If you watched the Birds game the other night, I believe they got hit with three flags for lowered helmet hits – one against Rodney McLeod, one against Nigel Bradham, and one against Jeremy Reaves. Sidney Jones received flag in the first game, so that’s four helmet penalties this preseason, unless I missed one. Malcolm Jenkins was also flagged last week, but I believe that was ruled unnecessary roughness.
Everybody knows why the policy exists; it was added this year to prevent injuries and cut down on violent blows to the head. That’s not the issue. The issue is the enforcement of a rule that feels vague and flimsy.
In this clip, McLeod lowers his helmet, but the running back also lowers his. So who gets the flag? Only the defender:
If you thought there were A LOT of flags last year, wait till this season with the NFL cracking down (more than ever) on Defenders lowering their helmets.
Rodney Mcleod called for lowering his helmet: pic.twitter.com/EjzMlwlsh8
— Marc Farzetta (@MarcFarzetta) August 17, 2018
Reaves found himself in a similar situation, with the ball carrier lowering his head to brace for contact:
Bruh….this is a penalty!? Jeremy Reaves called on this one. pic.twitter.com/pIuIFKmvHT
— Gayle Saunders (@EagleSessions) August 17, 2018
“Gillislee initiates the contact.”
Yep, and that’s from the New England broadcast team, FYI, so no homerism there.
Today defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and his players held a film session analyzing those penalties, not just theirs, but similar flags from around the league after two sets of preseason games.
“We’re trying to be educated on what’s gonna get called and what’s not. The instruction we’ve given guys is try not to lower your head, and try to take your head out of it. I think our guys are trying to do that. The other thing we say is you want to lower your target. But along with lowering your target and trying to stay away from the head, sometimes that causes you to dip your head. I think I can confidently say we don’t have any players that are trying to play outside the bounds. We don’t have any guys that are headhunting or being selfish. They’re trying to play within the rules. I think in Nigel’s play, you could see he’s trying to get his head out. I think in Rodney’s play he’s even trying to get his head across and get it out. The problem is they’re dealing with world class athletes who are moving targets. It’s easier said than done. And those fouls have hurt us in these couple of preseason games. We’ve just got to get to a point where they don’t hurt us in the regular season.”
Schwartz said the Eagles get video from the league that shows not only those penalties, but instances of infractions that don’t get called. He says the “feedback is good” as far discussions between the league, officials, and teams.
“We do a lot of stuff with defensive fouls. Sometimes you can learn best from looking at opponents. During the week, we carve out time during the course of our regular season where we watch certain fouls – defensive pass interference, roughing the passer, illegal use of hands, fouls like that. We try to learn what triggered the foul and what situation the guy was in. That’s nothing new. This just adds another thing to those clips.”
Brandon Graham, who just came off the PUP list, explained the difficulty of keeping your face up when tackling a runner:
— Zach Gelb (@ZachGelb) August 20, 2018
“They have to see what they hit as well.”
That’s been my biggest issue with the rule so far, that offensive players can seemingly lower the helmet at will, but the defensive players – mostly cornerbacks and linebackers in high-impact plays – are the only ones getting the flags.
And, theoretically, say you’ve got a goal line rushing situation – or even a QB sneak – where you’ve got extra tight ends or a jumbo set blocker in the game (Isaac Seumalo), and it’s basically just two groups of freakishly athletic men ramming each other head-first from the start.
Is this not accurate? –
Approximately how many flag incidences there would be on short yardage & goal line plays if the @nfl’s moronic new ‘lowered helmet’ rule were called as written. #Vikings #Jaguars pic.twitter.com/DLPFU1O6q0
— Matt Chatham (@chatham58) August 18, 2018
I guess the prevailing thought is that players will start to figure it out, officials will become more comfortable with the rule, and we’ll see less flags as the season progresses. Maybe that happens, but I’m skeptical. I just think it’s a bad tweak, vague and open to misinterpretation like most NFL rule changes.