EARTH CITY, Mo. -- During the St. Louis Rams' training camp, it was a common sight to see the team's defensive backs working in one-on-one coverage drills to with tennis balls in their hands.
The goal of the drill was to get defensive backs accustomed to covering without using their hands. It was a nod to the NFL's pending added emphasis on illegal contact and defensive holding infractions. It also yielded humorous moments for the assembled fans watching from the sidelines.
And, considering the numbers, it worked out OK for the Rams' young secondary.
ESPN NFL Nation columnist Kevin Seifert tracks all things penalty related for this website and made it a point to keep tabs on how those points of emphasis manifested into actual penalties.
As it turned out, the increased emphasis absolutely led to more of those types of penalties in 2014. This year, teams were called for those two infractions an average of 15.4 times. That represents a big increase from 2013 when teams were called an average of 9.2 times for those penalties.
But the Rams didn't really contribute that much to the change. In their 16 games, the Rams were flagged 10 times for defensive holding and five for illegal contact. Those numbers include penalties accepted, declined and offsetting.
That wasn't the best performance in the league in that area, but only 11 teams had fewer combined flags in those two areas. For perspective, Cleveland had the most penalties in those two categories with a combined 23 while Kansas City had the fewest with just seven.
Of course, given the amount of big plays the Rams secondary gave up in 2014, perhaps a few more flags might have done them some good.