There are two new helmet rules for 2018 (even if one of them doesn’t get mentioned or applied very much), and it’s still not quite clear how the rule against lowering the helmet to initiate contact will apply, especially when the games count.
The Eagles took three more flags on Thursday night at New England for violating the rule (in all, 32 have been thrown through 20 preseason contests). After the game, coach Doug Pederson was asked whether the situation gives him concern.
“Well, obviously, I think it is a concern league wide,” Pederson told reporters. “You know, with exactly how this is going to get called. You know, it’s great to see because it’s all teaching and teachable moments, especially the defensive side. And, you know, we just have to keep educating our players on the proper technique. Again, it’s something that we will evaluate the film in the morning and see exactly what’s going on. These are great teachable moments.”
Still, it’s easier said than done when it comes to actually teaching.
“It’s hard because you don’t go live in practice either, so you are just going off of game film,” Pederson said, “and try to coach off of that and show these guys these plays and continue to educate them. Because you’re not putting your team in live situations anymore in camp; it’s hard to really work on it. And you can work all the drills you want, but until you are in the game when things happen a lot faster, that’s when you really find out how your team is progressing in that area.”
Exacerbating the challenge is the fact that every single drill or video that aims to teach proper form tackling entails the person to be tackled facing the tackler. During games, plays are happening in three dimensions, with movement and angles and the ever-present effort to get lower than the opponent. And it’s all unfolding while players are wearing large, hard-shell helmets that routinely end up hitting the thing that the player is trying not to hit with his helmet.
The overriding goal is honorable, and overdue: The helmet should not be used as a weapon. But the NFL has taken a rake not a scalpel to the problem, banning even the most unavoidable and incidental helmet contact from the sport, throwing the entire exercise of tackling into a stew of random chance.