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Sunday, February 23, 2020

Holding penalties have spiked during the preseason

Pass interference penalties will be something to watch this NFL season, but another point of emphasis around the league seems to be holding.

Through two weeks of the preseason, holding penalty calls have spiked compared to the first two weeks of games in last year’s preseason.

According to a graphic from FOX, there has been an average of 8.9 holding calls per game the first two weeks of the preseason. By comparison, the average through two preseason games last year was 3.9.

Just how high is 8.9? FOX NFL rules analyst Dean Blandino says the regular season has never averaged more than four holds per game.

“There was a point of emphasis on backside holding, but we are seeing holds in the kicking game, in the run game and passing game. That will start to regulate as we get to the regular season. But it’s not a good time to be an offensive lineman right now with these flags for holding,” Blandino said during an appearance on FOX’s broadcast of the Vikings-Seahawks preseason game Sunday night.

Roughing the passer rule changes last year were the talk of the league the first few weeks of the season and even had Clay Matthews questioning his future following several high-profile calls. Holding penalties could be the subject to watch this year.

In addition to the emphasis on holding calls, the league is cracking down on blindside blocks. No forceable contact with a player’s helmet, shoulder or forearm while heading back to their goal line is allowed. That’s the foul that was called on Detroit Lions offensive lineman Oday Aboushi that had fans upset.

Beyond the holding and blindside blocks, another rule change to watch includes revisions to leaping (a player must be on the line of scrimmage and stationary). Teams also will have the choice of enforcing penalties for a personal foul or unsportsmanlike conduct on the point after touchdown attempt or kickoff.

An increase in holding penalties could have severe effects for teams that want to run the ball.

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