Pass interference penalties could change, CBs shouldn't get their hopes up
As the competition committee convenes this week, a series of rule changes are reportedly on the table. Most notably a simplification of the catch rule seems likely, though the details of that may not be clear until owners meet next month. In the meantime, there is debate about capping the penalty for pass interference at 15 yards, rather than placing the ball at the spot of the foul. (This is already the rule in college.)
How big of an impact would that change make? Well last season there were 137 DPI calls of greater than 15 yards, and had they been capped, it would have saved defenses around the league 1,618 yards (for comparison, Antonio Brown led the NFL with 1,533 yards in 2017). More than that, defensive backs would be emboldened to play more physically down the field. Matthew Stafford, Drew Brees, and Carson Wentz all averaged more than 15 yards per attempt when throwing the ball more than 20 yards downfield with coverage nearby (defender within two yards). On aggregate, defenses under the proposed rule would be better served diving into receivers in such situations.
An increase in stops for flags and a decrease in aerial excellence is not what the league is looking for in 2018. It could also decide to enact a 15-yard option for interference that is less blatant in addition to a spot foul, but introducing another judgment call for refs to make is also not on this year's to-do list. Every year, there's a big game or two that swings on a long DPI. This year it was Jaguars-Patriots, as New England moved 68 yards across a pair of penalties. But unless the NFL can find an elegant solution, I don't think the league is willing to accept all the various trade-offs that come with making those calls a little less impactful.
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