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Richard Sherman: Rule tweaks helping average QBs put up HOF numbers

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Four weeks into the season, NFL teams are on a record-setting pace in a number of major offensive categories, including points scored, touchdowns, passing yards, completions and completion percentage.

In all of those statistical categories, the totals accumulated represent the highest through the first four weeks of a season in league history.

On Thursday, San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman offered his explanation for the offensive outburst.

"This is what the league wanted," Sherman said. "They want record passing numbers. You've got an average quarterback; the average quarterback's passer rating is like 92 and that used to be Hall of Fame numbers. And now it's not Hall of Fame numbers, that's the average quarterback.

"You can't touch him. You can't tackle him. You can't hit him high, can't hit him low. You can't knock him down to the ground hard ... all that. You can't hit a receiver too high, you can't hit him low, you can't push him. You can barely press him. It's making it really difficult on teams to combat it because every rule in the book is designed to make sure you don't get them stopped."

Sherman noted that rule changes or points of emphasis geared toward roughing the passer, tackling and illegal contact have given offenses a distinct advantage with the additions to the roughing-the-passer rules the latest in a line of changes that have made life more difficult for defenders.

"They're just trying to make it impossible for guys to play defense," Sherman said. "It's an interesting league we play in."

San Francisco defensive coordinator Robert Saleh wasn't so sure that the increased offensive output could be correlated to rule changes.

"To attribute it to rules, I don't know," Saleh said. "I don't know if I want to attribute (it) to that. I don't know if it's offenses being more creative. I know the quarterback play is getting a lot better, the skill set is a lot better and there's a lot of creativity in the league right now so it's a challenge, for sure, especially with some of the stuff that's shown up."

"This is what the league wanted. They want record passing numbers. You've got an average quarterback; the average quarterback's passer rating is like 92 and that used to be Hall of Fame numbers. And now it's not Hall of Fame numbers, that's the average quarterback."
Richard Sherman

Through the first four weeks, teams have combined for 2,999 completions, 32,215 passing yards, 228 passing touchdowns, 3,030 points scored and 344 total touchdowns. Other offensive records seem to be falling on a weekly basis, also.

This season has already provided 12 400-yard passing games (a record for four weeks), 10 quarterbacks on pace to set their team's season passing yards record and four quarterbacks (Derek Carr, Kirk Cousins, Jared Goff and Ben Roethlisberger) on pace to break Peyton Manning's season passing yards record of 5,477.

According to Sherman, the league has already reached a place where it's essentially become a seven-on-seven passing drill. Given that, his suggestion is to take it a step further and put flags on quarterbacks to prevent them from getting hit.

"Even if a guy gets to the quarterback, if it's third down, it's going to be an automatic first down because more than likely they're going to call roughing the passer even if it's a clean hit, a legal hit," Sherman said. "They're going to find a way to extend the drive even if a defense is effective.

"My suggestion was to put flags on the quarterbacks. If you don't want them touched, don't want them knocked down, these D-ends and D-tackles and linebackers have long arms so they'll be able to snatch these flags off without touching these guys half the time so whenever they're ready to move to that, I'm sure defenses will appreciate it."

Sherman, who is in his first year with the 49ers, missed last week's game against the Los Angeles Chargers with a calf injury. On Thursday, he left the door open for a return this week against Arizona, as he was expected to have some level of participation in practice.