The NFL tends to be a reactionary league especially when it comes to dictating the rules. For years, the league has worked hard to protect quarterbacks by changing around what is considered an appropriate way to play defense on them. No longer can a defender land on a quarterback, throw a quarterback to the ground or tackle them low.
Sometimes touching a quarterback is a penalty.
We have seen how drastically rule changes can impact the game. There are hardly any kick returns as forming blocking wedges or walls are no longer allowed but it is the defense that has become much more difficult to play.
Not only do defenders have to be overly cautious when coming anywhere near the quarterback but when approaching any offensive player. A ball carrier in motion can change direction in a split second and a good tackle becomes a 15-yard penalty for hitting them in the head.
Now comes word that the NFL might once again become reactionary after QB Patrick Mahomes was injured against the Jacksonville Jaguars. In that game, a pretty standard technique for tackling someone from behind was used. The defender wrapped up Mahomes then dropped his weight to pull him to the ground.
Called the “hip drop” tackle, it now may be outlawed:
And finally, expect a conversation with the Competition Committee about the hip drop tackle and how it contributes to high ankle sprains. And field surface data is still being compiled, so expect more on that this off-season.— Judy Battista (@judybattista) February 3, 2023
Former Seattle Seahawks defender Richard Sherman questioned the possible new rule quickly:
A desperation wrap up trying to prevent a ball carrier from gaining extra yards. There isnt one player saying “hey I’m about to drop my weight on his ankle when I tackle him”. Defense is Hard enough with the rules about roughing the QB and interference. This would be overkill https://t.co/p5mPwcZ0SW— Richard Sherman (@RSherman_25) February 4, 2023
Current NFL defenders Bobby Wagner and Cam Heyward replied with similar concerns. Wagner asked what the league wants a defender to do while Heyward says they are “trying to make defenders extinct.”
In general, the league has made policy changes for two simple reasons: 1) Entertainment/money and 2) Safety. While not everyone will agree that the rule changes lead to a more entertaining product, some of us still like defense, and it is uncertain if the changes are providing actual safety overall, the league presses on.
If the hip drop is banned, defenders will have very little chance of tackling a player from behind. They will either have to hope to trip them up, while both are running at full speed, or somehow get in front of them to make the tackle.
For NFL franchises, the league rules are making it more and more likely that teams will continue to build around their offense and just hope they have a decent enough defense. No matter how talented a defense is, especially if this rule takes place, it is almost impossible to play it well in the NFL.
Cleveland Browns fans are hoping new DC Jim Schwartz can work some miracles but the NFL seems hell-bent on taking defense mostly out of the game.