Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Denver Broncos [Print without images]

Friday, August 1, 2014
Good, bad news on rules enforcement

By Jeff Legwold

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Sometimes, after the Denver Broncos have run a play in practice, coach John Fox will look at what's just been done and say "all right, good news, bad news."

He'll quickly go over what he liked and then what didn't go the way it was supposed to.

So when the Broncos were shown the video outlining the league's "points of emphasis," they saw good news to go with, yes, a little bad news as far as their record-setting offense is concerned.

The good news is yet another crackdown on illegal contact by defenders on receivers outside the 5-yard chuck zone as well as on defensive holding, specifically the jersey grab. And while the Broncos' revamped defense may have an issue with that, in the big picture this team is a high-powered affair on offense and would benefit significantly from any rules enforcement that would allow their receivers a bit more room.

That's especially true with the kind of size they can put in the formation with Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas and rookie Cody Latimer and a future Hall of Famer in Peyton Manning throwing the ball.

"We know on defense the NFL wants points so they never make a rule that helps the defense," Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. You just play it how you have to play it. Besides with our offense, it's going to be tough on people defending them."

One of the league's officials, Scott Helverson, who is in Broncos camp this week, said they will be making those calls this year.

The bad news? Defensive coaches have long griped about centers moving their heads or hands before the snap to draw defensive linemen offside. The "head bob," as it were, happens when the center looks through his legs to see the quarterback, who is lined up in the shotgun formation, then jerks his head up quickly to look forward but does not snap the ball.

Often a defensive lineman has jumped, and often the flag arrives soon after.

Officials have been told to flag the center on that now, that "prior to the snap, any quick, or abrupt movement by any offensive players, or several offensive players in unison, which simulates the start of a play, is a foul." The league's directive said among the things to be penalized are "a center abruptly lifting or dropping his head not immediately followed by the snap."

In the video shown to teams around the league to outline the rules changes this year as well as points of emphasis, the center shown making the head movement is the Broncos' own Manny Ramirez. As the league's offenses continue to push the envelope -- the Broncos set a season record with 606 points last season -- the competition committee decided to crank up enforcement. So centers such as Ramirez are going to have to change the way they do things.

There were 33 neutral zone infractions by defenders flagged in 2005. Last season there were 132; Broncos opponents were flagged seven times for neutral zone infractions and three for defensive offside.