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J.J. Watt suggests reducing offensive holding from 10 yards to five yards

It’s no surprise that NFL officials look the other way on holding all too often. Former NFL defensive lineman J.J. Watt has an idea for getting more yellow flags to fly.

Appearing recently on Pat McAfee’s show, Watt suggested reducing the penalty from 10 yards to five.

“I think the refs understand that a 10-yard penalty is a massive penalty in the NFL,” Watt said, via SteelersDepot.com. “So I think if you made [it] a 5-yard penalty, I think it’s going to be called much more fairly and much more realistically. Because it’s not as crippling to the offense.”

It’s an intriguing idea, but it potentially overlooks the reason for the failure to call holding. The officials aren’t trying to avoid taking away 10 yards of field position; they’re trying to let offenses operate effectively by giving offensive linemen an edge when it comes to defensive linemen who keep getting better and better — and who can inflict significant damage onto a quarterback if they hit him.

Illegal procedure is only a five-yard penalty, but the officials don’t call it like they should when a tackle takes off a split-second early. That head start helps him keep the edge rusher from hitting the quarterback. Ditto for the habit of tackles who line up too deep into the backfield.

If the rule were to change from 10 yards to five, there’s actually a chance it would be called even less frequently.

Regardless of whether it’s five or 10 or 15 yards, the NFL wants offenses to gain yards and score points. Currently, defensive linemen are collectively better than offensive linemen. Not calling holding or illegal procedure help balance out the disparity.

I’m not defending the practice, especially since it results in holding being called inconsistently. It’s frustrating for fans and teams and defensive players. All too often, officials fail to call holding. It can’t just be incompetence; the officials don’t want to bog the game down by calling holding whenever it happens. And it’s very possible they don’t call it by the book because, if they did, it wouldn’t be wabbit season or duck season — it would be quarterback season.

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