In his recent installment of the weekly officiating video, senior vice president of officiating Al Riveron explained numerous calls from the second week of preseason games, including defenseless receivers, the new kickoff rules, and the new and ever-popular lowering the head to initiate contact foul (video below).
Holding a defender into the quarterback
In the Jaguars-Vikings game, an offensive lineman held an outside linebacker during his path to the quarterback, and then threw him to the ground into the back of the quarterback’s legs. Since the defender’s low contact with the quarterback was influenced by the foul, there is no foul for roughing the passer on the play. Referee Shawn Hochuli and umpire Roy Ellison correctly caught the hold on the Jacksonville lineman and Hochuli even clarified that there was no foul for roughing the passer on the play because the defender was held into the quarterback.
Defenseless receivers and the catch process
In two different plays in the video, Riveron explained both the process of the catch under the new rules and its effect on hits on defenseless receivers. In both plays, one from Broncos-Vikings (preseason week 1) and Bucs-Titans, the receiver in question caught the ball and: 1) maintained control, 2) got both feet down in bounds, and 3) had the opportunity to perform an act common to the game. Both receivers in each game were still in vulnerable postures even after the process was completed, and therefore, they still receive protection from being contacted in the head/neck area.
Before the rule change, the process of the catch and the defenseless receiver protections both had the same endpoint.
Landing with full body weight on the quarterback
In one of the new points of emphasis for the 2018 season, roughing the passer will be called more strictly when a defender lands with his full body weight on the quarterback when he is in a passing posture. In Washington last week, a defender grabbed the quarterback and, after he released the ball, picked him up and brought him to the ground, landing on top of him when they hit the ground. This is a foul for roughing the passer and this is a point of emphasis for officials this season.
Legal/illegal tandem blocks on kickoffs
As part of the new kickoff rules for the season, it is illegal to take part in a double-team block if the player making the block did not start in the “setup zone”, which is the area between the kicking team’s 45-yard line and the receiving team’s 40-yard line. Numerous kickoffs were shown in the video where one of the three players outside of the setup zone performed one of these tandem blocks, which is illegal under the new rules. If two players who start inside the setup zone make one of these blocks, the action is legal. Although not mentioned in the video, two-man wedge blocks are always illegal.
In another play from Bucs-Titans, Tennessee’s center fired off the line forward, and then started moving back toward his own goal line, and hit a defender on the side and below the waist. This is known as an illegal peel-back block, and it is a 15 yard penalty by the offense. Since the center moved toward his own end line and approached his opponent from the side and made contact low, the center committed a peel-back block foul. If the contact had been to the back of the legs as opposed to the side, it would have been a foul for clipping.
Lowering head to initiate contact vs. bracing for contact
The new and infamous rule this season eliminating lowering the head to initiate contact was discussed in detail by Riveron, using six different plays in which some included legal contact, and others, illegal. The name of the foul easily explains the illegal act: if a player lowers his head to initiate contact to his opponent when other options are available to him, it is a foul. Some instances that are not fouls are when a player lowers his head to brace for contact from his opponent, or when he lowers his head and twists it to the side, to avoid initiating contact with his head. Also, if a player initiates contact with his facemask, it is not a foul, as the player does not have to lower his head to make contact with his facemask.