TEMPE, Ariz. — At some point recently, you may have heard that the NFL has become a passing league.
Quarterbacks are piling up yards while receivers are putting up monster totals. Records are continually falling, and while it’s not quite the Arena Football League, defenses are still left trying to add pass rushers and cornerbacks to combat the aerial assault.
“Yeah, probably since the last time they emphasized the rules after the New England/Indianapolis stuff that went on and it got hard for a couple years,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said when asked if it is more difficult to play cornerback now than at any other time in NFL history. “I like the new rules. I think our guys are athletic enough to play without their hands on defense, and people need to keep their hands off peoples’ facemask.
“I think the rules are good.”
Spoken like a coach whose background is on the offensive side of the ball.
According to NFLPenalties.com, referees are flagging teams for an average of 0.99 defensive holding, 0.891 defensive pass interference, 0.457 illegal contact and 0.761 illegal use of hands penalties per game.
Those numbers, while not necessarily high, are all up from last season, when there was less emphasis on enforcing certain rules.
You will not find anyone in the Cardinals’ secondary complaining about the referees and attributing any struggles they may have to the way the games are being called. However, the already difficult task of containing the opponent’s receivers is now even more so.
“Oh no question, no question,” cornerback Jerraud Powers said when asked the same question as his coach. “I mean, you can’t touch them. After five yards you can’t touch them. Football is a physical game; we all understand as defensive players it’s becoming more of an offensive game. The NFL wants TV ratings and wants the game to be exciting. We understand that part.
“But it’s definitely tough to be a defensive back in this league because all the rules favor the receiver, and it’s just our job to adjust.”