RICHMOND, Va. -- The flags started flying during seven-on-seven drills and, most likely, so did the expletives. The NFL wants to emphasize eliminating illegal contact this season, which means defensive players aren’t going to be happy.
And that was evident in practice. It's not as if they’re screaming at officials, though Redskins secondary coach Raheem Morris certainly debated a call during Thursday’s practice. But defensive players know they must adjust in coverage.
As in: Seattle’s secondary is a physical one. The Redskins haven’t played as physical as the Seahawks, and defensive backs in general have become more grabby. But Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said it was a little crazy how many flags were thrown in practice.
“The officials need to adjust,” Haslett said. “[The players] have to know it’s a point of emphasis. We’re still going to play aggressive, but we have to be smart and they have to leave their hands in. It’s a little bit late; the team that grabs and holds, they win a Super Bowl.”
“The receivers are slapping us across and pushing off,” Redskins corner David Amerson said. “Roberts almost pushed him down so he grabbed him to catch his balance. What else are we supposed to do? It worked me up a little bit.
“Anytime you’re in press coverage it’s a fight for the receiver and the defensive backs. They lean to the offense a little more. There’s a lot of pushing and slapping at the top of their routes. Just make sure it goes both ways. If you’re going to call it one way, then call it the other way. It has to do with entertainment. Everyone wants to see a shootout but it puts defensive backs at a disadvantage.”
Haslett and Hall said it comes down to technique. The players still want to, and can, be aggressive. But they must avoid using their hands. Hall has been flagged three times for defensive holding since joining the Redskins midway through the 2008 season. That’s why he said he’s not worried about the new rule, though he admitted to hearing a “lot of bitching and complaining. But I’m smiling and laughing.”
“I’ve never been a guy who wanted to tussle with a receiver downfield,” Hall said. “I wanted to get in his hip pocket and go with him. If [officials] are as consistent as they’ve been in practice, which is every single play it’s been a flag, if they’re that consistent in the regular season and in the preseason there will be some long football games. A lot of penalties.”
Haslett said he’s anticipating the flags decreasing after the preseason. But, he said, if the league cracks down on players using their hands too much in coverage then it places a premium on speed. The Redskins feel they’ve upgraded their defensive speed.
“You have to be smart,” Haslett said.
Of course, not everyone on the Redskins dislikes it -- and, yes, it's an offensive player.
"I know defensive guys don't like it, but you just can't do illegal stuff on the field," Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III said. "Last year it kind of went by the wayside for a lot of teams."