Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis wasn't kidding around when he said "the flags will rain" in response to a question about how NFL officials will call games tighter due to an emphasis on pass-defense penalties.
During the entirety of the 2013 NFL season, a total of 37 illegal contact penalty flags were issued. Keep in mind that was over the course of 256 games. Through the first 17 preseason games in 2014, that number has already reached 27 flags thrown. So in 219 less games, there have been only 10 less illegal contact penalties. To put it simply: that's insane. I won't even mention that in the four preseason games on Friday night (Eagles-Patriots included) there were a total of 86 penalties called.
Still, you won't see Eagles head coach Chip Kelly complain about it. (Publicly, at least.) "If you can't play within the rules, you can't play in this league," Kelly said following the Eagles' preseason 42-35 loss to the New England Patriots. "That's just the bottom line. You're just handing people first downs. We better figure it out. You don't have to agree with the speed limit, but if the cop's out there with a speed gun then you better take your foot off the gas or he's going to pull you over."
Through two preseason games, the Eagles have been penalized 19 times for a total of 258 yards. Note that this number does not include penalties that was declined or off-setting. If the Eagles held this pace during the regular season they would finish with 152 flags, which is just as many as the league-leading Seattle Seahawks finished with in 2013. Compare that figure to the 99 penalties (19th) committed the Eagles committed in 2013 for a total of 889 yards (15th).
While part of me thinks these excessive flags thrown are somewhat of a scare tactic from the officials -- there's just no way they can call games this tight when they actually count -- another part of me still thinks the Eagles will need to do a better job of operating within the rules. It's no secret that the Eagles employ defensive backs that like to be physical and grabby; starting cornerback Bradley Fletcher finished with five pass interference penalties last season while Cary Williams recorded three.
In any event, it's disappointing that this is how the NFL is choosing to operate. I'm all for player safety, but I'm not sure that slowing the game down to a stand-still with excessive penalties is the best way to go about it. Especially when players insist they're not going to change how they play. It just really takes the fun out of watching the game. If this is how the NFL plans to operate in the regular season, which I'm thinking (and hoping) it's not, it will soon be time to throw a red flag in response to the NFL's flurry of yellow flags.