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NFL could change defensive PI to 15-yard penalty

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The NFL is reportedly looking at implementing a number of rule changes, some expected (clarifying the catch rule) and some not so.

One of the surprising proposals offered by the NFL Competition Committee is to change the penalty for defensive pass interference from a spot foul to a 15-yard penalty at most, NFL Network's Judy Battista reported Tuesday. This is more in line with how the game is refereed on the collegiate level.

Changing the pass interference penalty is on its face a defense-first measure. Offenses would have far less to gain by "chucking it up" to try and draw a penalty from a grabby defensive back downfield.

Defensive pass interference was called 266 times in 2017, per Pro Football Reference, or more than once per game for an average of 18.09 yards per game. It was the third-most frequent flag behind offensive holding and false start.

In addition, and perhaps as a counter-measure, the league is expected to increase "illegal contact" calls as an effort to limit the amount of hand-fighting.

Battista reported the committee is also looking at potentially eliminating the "going to the ground" portion of the catch rule in attempt to clarify, changing the targeting rule and emphasizing more ejections for fighting.

"We are going to figure it out," said Stephen Jones, Cowboys executive vice president and competition committee member, in regard to the catch rule. "I do think we'll make some improvements that our fans, and in general, people will appreciate when it's all said and done."

Outside the lines, the NFL is also expected to implement a Josh McDaniels Rule. Battista reported a new measure to allow teams to hire coaches, even while their teams are still active in the playoffs, could be adopted.

The catalyst for this rule came earlier this month. The Colts were expected to hire McDaniels, then and still New England's offensive coordinator, as their next head coach, but couldn't until after the Pats were eliminated from the postseason. After the Super Bowl, McDaniels backed out of their handshake agreement, causing Indianapolis to scramble to find a replacement.

The NFL Competition Committee is made up of two owners, club presidents, general managers and head coaches. The Committee must present proposed measures to the 32 owners to be accepted. A new rule or a revision must have the support of 75 percent of the owners.

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