The NFL is forcing referees to target illegal defensive contact on pass plays, but there’s worry that an increase in penalties could harm games as a viewing spectacle.
Illegal contact fouls are where defensive players initiate contact with a receiver more than five yards down the field, whilst the quarterback is still in the pocket looking to throw.
The league has called on referees to focus on these fouls after a huge dropoff in illegal contact calls in 2021.
This is the third time in the last 20 years that the NFL has highlighted illegal contact calls and both previous years – 2004 and 2014 – saw the number of fouls flagged steeple.
However, with NFL teams passing more than ever before, there’s worry this emphasis could disrupt the flow of games.
Whilst the league will hope this leads to defensive players staying within the rules, if it doesn’t cause habits to change then a spike in the number of penalties might frustrate fans.
Last season the NFL asked referees to focus on taunting penalties, in 2020 they ordered a crackdown on ‘clear and obvious’ fouls’.