Making an impact
Here are some predictions on the impact of the NFL's decision to closely enforce contact or interference penalties after five yards:
Veteran receivers who get quickly into routes -- Marvin Harrison of the Colts and Isaac Bruce of the Rams for example -- should have monster years. The Patriots used a "Cover 4" against the Colts in the AFC Championship game that allowed them to have five defenders against the three-receiver sets on one side of the field. Harrison was double-covered in the slot and grabbed after having contact made in the first five yards.
Harrison is quick into his routes and will get to the five-yard area faster than most. That makes him virtually unstoppable.
Maybe this is just judgmental, but I believe rookie receivers will have more impact in their first seasons. True, most first-round receivers are underclassmen who have trouble adjusting to NFL route-running and getting off the line of scrimmage in their rookie seasons. But these rookies should have more of a chance to get off the line of scrimmage without having a defender in their faces as long as teams play more zone and less man. Because these are big, powerful receivers who are faster than the cornerbacks covering them, they should be able to run their routes better and make more catches early.
Defenses will use more blitzing packages to put pressure on quarterbacks and force quicker throws. Face it, secondaries can't get away what they did, and very few teams have shutdown man-to-man coverage quarterbacks. Expect more zone blitzes. Sacks fell to 1,092 last year, lowest since 1994. Watch the sack numbers increase.
-- John Clayton
I hadn't thought of that before but guys who do get into their cuts quicker like Marvin could really take advantage thanks to this new rule.