Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

25 Mar 2013

MMQB: Dumervil Salvages Baltimore Offseason

This week Peter talks Baltimore's offseason, waxes about Ed Reed and Brian Urlacher, and, naturally, spends some words on career Jaguars center Brad Meester.

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 25 Mar 2013

19 comments, Last at 03 Apr 2013, 3:36am by MC2


by JonFrum :: Mon, 03/25/2013 - 3:44pm

"I don't think it's going to affect me at all. I rarely use the crown of my helmet. You really want to go in with your shoulder pads.''

-- Buffalo running back C.J. Spiller

I'd like to know how the shoulders can go somewhere the head isn't present.

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 03/25/2013 - 4:47pm

It's not complicated. You use whichever shoulder is closer to the player you want to hit. It's a lot easier to go bounce off one side of a player than to actually go through a player.

by Sifter :: Mon, 03/25/2013 - 5:03pm

Uh yeah it is kind of complicated. Easy in THEORY of course...but the guy trying to tackle you is trying to thwart your cunning plan, plus there's 20 other guys moving around at random times/angles/places. Saying it's easy is ridiculous.

by sundown (not verified) :: Tue, 03/26/2013 - 4:03pm


It does get WAY tougher when it is moving targets and not practice dummies.

I've resigned myself to how one day every play with a hard hit will draw a flag, only nobody will have any idea before the announcement whether it'll be on the defender or the runner. The replay will just show the two guys diving into each other.

by MC2 :: Sun, 03/31/2013 - 9:13pm

I've gone even further and resigned myself to the idea that 20 years from now, there will be no hard hits. The NFL, if it even exists then, will be a cross between flag football and the Arena League. Sure, the game will suck, but hey, at least it'll be "safe", and we all know that's what really matters, right? Right?

by LionInAZ :: Mon, 04/01/2013 - 8:31pm

If you think the game would suck without hard hits, you can always go to low-life sports like MMA and UFC.

Me, I always thought football was about game planning and play design, not mindless head-bashing.

by MC2 :: Wed, 04/03/2013 - 3:36am

So you wouldn't mind if they literally changed the NFL to a flag football league?

by Led :: Mon, 03/25/2013 - 5:26pm

The same thing applies to defenders, and yet they've managed to adjust reasonably well to leading with their shoulders in the open field and with defenseless receivers.

by JonFrum :: Mon, 03/25/2013 - 7:56pm

No it doesn't apply - it's entirely different. Defensive players have been approaching receivers with their heads up, with no effort to wrap up, and then do a classic head butt motion into the receiver's helmet. The see the player, target him, and strike him in the head. Running backs are cutting and dragging guys behind them - it's very rare that they even get the opportunity to deliberately head butt a defensive player. The defense is always moving TOWARDS the ball carrier - they're tracking him and seeking him out. They can choose how they hit him. The running back is trying to get yards, not just slam his body into the tackler. Totally different.

It is possible that on rare occasions, running backs lower their heads in order to hit the helmet of a tackler, but isn't it in their interest to AVOID the tackler? The logic for penalizing RBs for lowering their helmets is backwards. There is an incentive for a safety to target a ball carrier with his helmet. There is no incentive for a running back to target the head of a tackler. There's a difference between leading with your helmet and using your helmet to deliberately crack the head of a potential tackler. The NFL will be reading minds to sort out the two.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 03/25/2013 - 11:34pm

LMGTFY: Earl Campbell

by Dean :: Tue, 03/26/2013 - 9:25am

Why do I feel like you're being deliberately obtuse about this?

by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Tue, 03/26/2013 - 10:00am

"It is possible that on rare occasions, running backs lower their heads in order to hit the helmet of a tackler,"

By "rare" you mean "2/3 of running plays" right?

by Sifter :: Tue, 03/26/2013 - 4:00pm

I'm with Frum. In my opinion, the vast majority of the time when RBs lower their heads it's in a more defensive way ie. they see a defender coming in hot and want to brace and get low as best they can. If RBs were using helmets like a rhinoceros, vigourously swinging it at any defender stupid enough to get in their way, THEN I might be a bit more concerned. But I just don't see it happening like that. I think it's an overreaction to the Steven Ridley-Bernard Pollard collision, and the NFL is trying to stop RBs lowering their head thinking that it will stop those collisions.

by sundown (not verified) :: Tue, 03/26/2013 - 4:09pm

Agree with most everything you say here.

The problem is going to be that just like the calls against defenders, it'll be extremely hard for officials to call this. What percentage of "blows to the head" end up looking on replay like the head was either missed entirely or only impacted after contact was made with the shoulder or some other part of the body? At least 50%, maybe even more? Even "defenseless player" calls frequently are debatable. If they actually decide to call this with any regularity, no doubt guys will be getting flagged simply for ducking low and trying to avoid contact.

by Reinhard (not verified) :: Tue, 03/26/2013 - 6:09pm

Also I believe the rule allows you to lower your head to protect yourself.

There's a classic "head butt" move (like Earl Campbell mentioned above) that was perfectly within the rules before, but now it's not.
There's also a variation where you put your head down and then pop it UP into the defender this will probably not be legal anymore either. (Probably some Walter Payton clips may find this one...)

Also didn't they say that a review of 16 games (1 week) they found 2-3 such incidents. So they are clearly NOT talking about 75% of running plays.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 03/27/2013 - 9:32am

There's a review of NJ high school football floating around pubmed that discussed that what is technically spearing occurs on something like 20% of tackles involving a runner, and the offensive player is the most frequent offender.

I also have to admit to being somewhat offended that in a collision between a 6'5", 260-lb tight end moving full speed and a 5'10", 180 lb DB moving at half-speed, the tight end is considered the "defenseless player". That's sort of like arguing the wrecking ball is defenseless against the building.

by LionInAZ :: Wed, 03/27/2013 - 5:50pm

Not quite. A sucker punch has been a great equalizer for a long time. 'Defenseless' has little to with size and everything to do with being able to brace oneself. It's rare for defenders to face that situation, except for blindside or blocks in the back, which are penalized already.

That said, I'm all for penalizing runners for spearing defenders, and for calling holds by defensive linemen.

by Kyle D. (not verified) :: Wed, 03/27/2013 - 11:17am

My questions are whether they'll call the correct 2-3 plays per week or miss on lots of them, or if they'll end up calling it 15 times per week trying to make sure they catch the 2-3 real incidents. My guess is it's just a show rule to make it look like they're doing something and it will rarely be used, but my real fear is they'll eventually have to address the elephant in the room, which is the fact that blows to the head along the line happen every single play. And once they go there, the game will be drastically changed.

by RickD :: Mon, 03/25/2013 - 8:02pm


Really, Peter?