EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The first preseason game of the year is a test for everyone and everything it involves, including changes to the NFL's rules and officiating guidelines. This year, two of the officials "points of emphasis" will involve downfield contact by defensive backs against wide receivers. Four different New York Giants cornerbacks were called for penalties in Sunday's game, and that's absolutely a point the coaches are stressing in meetings this week.
"We've just got to continue to compete downfield and know what they're going to call," Giants cornerbacks coach Peter Giunta said Tuesday. "We've just got to be a little less aggressive with our hands downfield. You want to hand-fight the guys and not let them push us off, but we have to realize what the rules are and the emphasis this year, especially the tugs on the jersey. We've got to eliminate that from our play."
In their visits to training camps this year, NFL officials are speaking to players (and the media -- thanks, guys!) about the new rules and points of emphasis. The two that pertain in this case are as follows:
The prohibition against grabbing of receivers by defensive backs, including grabbing the jersey, will be enforced more strictly, including within five yards of the line of scrimmage.
The rule prohibiting a defender from initiating contact with a wide receiver more than five yards beyond the line of scrimmage will be enforced more strictly.
"They told us there's not going to be a 'healthy five,'" Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara said. "And a 'healthy five' is when, maybe at six [yards from the line of scrimmage] they would have let you get away with it. But now it's going to be a straight five. So we knew they were going to be strict and very adamant and direct and setting the standard that way. So I guess we are going to have to evolve with them. But our coaches still want us to be aggressive."
Giunta said Giants coaches have been evaluating practice tape and showing their defensive backs plays that would have been called penalties in games. The tape from Sunday night is easier. Amukamara was flagged for a five-yard illegal contact call one play before Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was flagged for defensive holding. Later, Zack Bowman was hit with a 14-yard pass interference penalty and Jayron Hosley was called for holding. So everybody seems to have something to work on with regard to this.
"You've just got to correct them in practice and get them to develop their habits in practice, keeping their hands off the receiver after five yards and just get a feel for what the five yards is," Giunta said. "It's hard. And you've got to get a feel for the officiating crew, too, because some of the guys will let you go six or seven and other guys will give you a strict five. They're trying to make it more of a strict five this year."