Will the Passing Game Come Alive in 2015?

TORONTO – The Canadian Football League has spent the past two off-seasons working on creating excitement with making major rule changes to the CFL passing game. When we say excitement we are talking about excitement for the Quarterbacks and Receivers and not exactly for the men that play in the Secondary and more importantly their coaches.
At the start of the 2014 season the CFL made a move to allow video to be used for challenges on Pass Interference. The CFL released the following guidelines in 2014:

The new rule now provides a team with the ability to use any and all of its Coaches’ Challenges to challenge a called or potential pass interference foul up to the final three minutes of a game. In the final three minutes of a game, and overtime, a team can only challenge such a call or non-call one time, and only if it still has an unused challenge and a timeout remaining.

A coach must challenge to trigger a video review of a pass interference call or a potential pass interference call. They will not be subject to automatic review by the Command Centre.

An unsuccessful challenge of potential pass interference foul in the final three minutes will result in the loss of a timeout. An unsuccessful challenge of an actual pass interference call in the final minutes will not result in the loss of a timeout.

As soon as this info was released the experts and fans were already talking about Arena Football type scores except in 2014 Touchdowns through the air went down. Check out the stats for the 2013 and 2014 season and remember there were actually more games played in the 2014 season as the CFL brought in the Expansion Ottawa REDBLACKS.

2013 2014
Games 72 81
Passing Touchdowns 235 185
Interceptions 154 145
Pass Attempts 4786 5188
Completions 2975 3214

It’s hard to believe that in a year with the ability for offences to ask for a video review with their Coaches Challenge that you didn’t see the defences back off a bit and give the offensive game more of a chance to create offence through the air. You may find an argument that in 2014 there were challenges at the QB position for many of the CFL teams but how do you explain 50 less touchdowns through the air in a season where there were more than 400 more pass attempts.

Now instead of trying to explain why the change in 2014 didn’t create more offence the CFL governors decided that they were going to make a major change to the game, it’s not so much a rule change but what they want to see enforced. For the start of the 2015 season the CFL made the following change:

To open up the passing game, the Governors approved a change designed to create more room for a passing offence.

It will allow a defensive player to contact a receiver that is in front of him within five yards of the line of scrimmage, but it will not allow either player to create or initiate contact that impedes or redirects an opponent beyond five yards.

This is a big change to how the CFL passing game will be able to create offence after the first five yards. We all know the CFL is renowned for its quick screen and hitch passes out wide but now with receivers having more room to work with after the first five yards we may see more of a North-South passing game then the East-West passing game that has been successful in the CFL. The first five yards will be your old school Football back to the old days of hand fighting and shaking your defender off you while once you get past the first five yards the cornerbacks and safeties are in real trouble. In the first Toronto Argonaut exhibition game of the year played on June 9th at Varsity Stadium against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers it became apparent that when a defender would put a hand on a receivers back, the same hand that never really interfered with a player but more was a hand check that a flag was being thrown. Defenders love to have some sort of contact on a receiver just to know where they are and that is what has been taught for as long as the game of football has been played. The secondary have had to be in ‘touch’ with receivers or they would get blown up after each game when it was time to review game footage with their coaches. This is going to make for a big change.

The big question for the CFL season might be if the teams are going to be comfortable with the black and white approach to penalties being called? The teams support the initiative to help the passing game but will they support the extra calls that might slow down the game early in the year. If the CFL supports their referees early in the year then you have to expect an increase in passing touchdowns for the new season.

Written by: Peter T. Kourtis

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