Today we discuss what specific traits a cornerback needs to be successful in 2019 and what it means for the Dallas Cowboys and their defensive backfield.
Last season, the Dallas Cowboys and their fans were pleasantly surprised by the performance of their cornerbacks. Not only did they collectively improve under Kris Richard, but they arguably formed the best one-through-four unit in the entire NFL.
But in the ever-changing terrain of the NFL, an annual assessment of players’ strengths and weaknesses is a must. What was a strength today, may ultimately be a weakness tomorrow. That’s because the rules, the application of rules, and the way in which they are called change like the tide.
Look no further than the new rules surrounding pass interference replays in 2019…
On the heels of one of the most egregious missed call in recent postseason memory, the NFL voted to change the rules regarding replay of pass interference penalties. Previously, pass interference (both called and uncalled) have been unreviewable. But the blown call in New Orleans changed all of that.
"“The goal is to correct clear officiating errors on impactful plays,” said Troy Vincent (NFL VP of football operations)"
In Troy’s words, the league’s “credibility is on the line”. The wrong team went to the Super Bowl because there was no replay to correct an obvious no-call. It simply had to change. But there are repercussions to that change. And it’s important the Dallas Cowboys address those inevitable repercussions before they make too many roster decisions in their secondary.
What is pass interference?
According to the NFL Rule Book
"(a) Contact by a player who is not playing the ball that restricts the opponent’s opportunity to make the catch.(b) Playing through the back of an opponent in an attempt to make a play on the ball.(c) Grabbing an opponent’s arm in such a manner that restricts his opportunity to catch a pass.(d) Extending an arm across the body of an opponent, thus restricting his ability to catch a pass, and regardless of whether the player committing such act is playing the ball.(e) Cutting off the path of an opponent by making contact with him, without playing the ball(f) Hooking an opponent in an attempt to get the ball in such a manner that it causes the opponent’s body to turn prior to the ball arriving.(g) Initiating contact with an opponent by shoving or pushing off, thus creating separation."
There’s an important detail throughout this that’s especially important in 2019: “playing the ball”. In subsections “a” and “e”, contact is allowed if the player is playing the ball.
Since both the offensive player and defensive player have a right to the ball once it’s in the air, whether or not to throw a flag often comes down to what the CB is looking at when contact is made.
We saw it all last season: If the CB isn’t looking back for the ball and initiates contact, he’s getting the flag. But that exact same level of CB-induced contact is allowed if the CB turns his head in an effort to play the ball.
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Under replay, it’s items like this that will make all the difference. Contact is almost inevitable on most downfield passes. The subjectively of the ref is everything. In slow-motion a certain level of context goes missing as the replay refs look for objective facts to make the call. It’s this landscape that makes “playing the ball” arguably the most important trait a CB can possess in 2019.
This is something we need to watch throughout training camp. Which cornerbacks look back for the ball and which cornerbacks are glued to the faces of the receiver might actually be more important than the degree of separation they allow (within reason, of course).
Recent changes to the rules regarding replay of pass interference mean some cornerback traits have just increased in value. By how much, we don’t really know, but we do know the Dallas Cowboys should be mindful of the new landscape in 2019.
- Published on 06/18/2019 at 12:28 PM
- Last updated at 06/18/2019 at 12:28 PM