The 2022 NFL season may get just what every fan wants: more penalty flags?
On Monday, an NFL spokesperson announced that the league had asked officials to pay particular attention to illegal contact penalties during the 2022 NFL season. By definition, an illegal contact penalty is one where “a defender makes contact with a receiver more than five yards down the field before a pass is thrown and while the quarterback is still in the pocket.” The penalty results in five yards and a first down.
The emphasis on illegal contact penalties will conceivably make things even more difficult for defenses since officials will be limiting downfield contact. The result could be easier first-down opportunities with defenders having to play further off of wide receivers and potentially more offense overall.
While more offense does sound fun for fans, more flags certainly do not.
“Officials flagged illegal contact an average of 97 times per season between 2002 and 2020, but that number dropped to 36 last season.” This decrease is what led to the NFL deciding to include illegal contact among its “points of clarification” for the 2022 season.
Another “point of clarification” was an attempt to limit roughing the passer penalties after there were 149 penalties last season, the most this century. The NFL made it clear that defenders should be flagged for roughing the passer only if there is “forcible” contact to the helmet or below the knee, rather than any minor contact.
Since the new points of clarification are particularly subjective, it’s anybody’s guess just how much the officials will change the way they call the game. However, on the surface, it appears that defensive linemen will be a little happier with the new rules, while members of the defensive secondary might have to drastically change the way they guard downfield receivers.