It wasn’t your average one-on-one session.
Wide receivers practiced hand-fighting off the line. Defensive backs tried to keep them there.
After five yards, all bets — and hands — were off.
The scene at Houston Texans training camp on Monday — a one-on-one drill as you’ve seldom seen it before — was seemingly designed specifically to make sure the team is playing by the NFL’s new rules, given their emphasis on enforcing pass interference, illegal contact and defensive holding this season.
“We just got to play cleaner,” safety D.J. Swearinger said. “It’s harder for us. As DBs, we can’t touch ’em, can’t hit ’em. But we gotta abide by the rules. If they want us to do that, we’ve got to do that and play within in the rules.”
It’s been a struggle this preseason league-wide. Through August 9, there were 44 instances of defensive holding and 21 of illegal contact in 13 games. That projects to 1,280 such flags over a 16 game regular season for all 32 teams.
Yes, that’s a lot.
Of their 13 total penalties on Saturday night in their preseason opener against the Arizona Cardinals, the Texans were flagged once for defensive holding, twice for illegal contact and once for pass interference.
Cornerback Brandon Harris was a two-time offender, including his 39-yard interference foul in the first quarter that gave the Cardinals a first-and-10 on Houston’s 19-yard-line. (Arizona scored a touchdown six plays later.) Cornerback Eddie Pleasant drew a flag for illegal contact (it was declined), as did cornerback Marcus Williams for defensive holding.
Swearinger said the rules weren’t to blame for the Texans sorry showing on defense overall, which included 32 points, 407 yards and conversions on 11 of 17 third downs allowed.
“Nah, it didn’t affect us at all,” he said. “We’ve got to play ball regardless of the rules and we’ve got to stop the offense regardless of the rules. So no, it doesn’t matter about the rules. We’ve got to stop them regardless.”
Swearinger wouldn’t say whether he thought the NFL has gone too far with this latest round of rule changes.
“It’s not my call to say whether they’ve gone too far or not,” he said. “All I know is I’ve got to come out here and do my best, every down to stop the offense. That’s what I’m gonna do.”
But such is life now in the NFL, and the Texans seem to be trying to adjust.
The Texans welcome the Atlanta Falcons for joint practices on Wednesday and Thursday their game on Saturday night at NRG Stadium.
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