Through two weeks of the NFL season, scoring is down from recent years and many have found the on-field product to be less-than-intriguing.
At the heart of this problem, many have argued, is the play of offensive lines around the league.
While quarterbacks often get blamed for a poor offense – and there are some mediocre quarterbacks starting around the league – poor offensive lines can create a domino effect on offense: less protection for the quarterback, shorter passes, shorter runs, fewer exciting big plays.
On Wednesday, Bill Belichick was asked for his thoughts on the poor offensive line play around the league, and he argued that it’s the result of the NFL’s practice policy.
The league and players union agreed in the CBA to a limited number of padded practices throughout the year. Belichick said the lack of padded practices creates bad habits from offensive lineman who can’t properly practice techniques and then execute them in games.
“You’re playing a contact position with pads, and you’re practicing it without pads the majority of the time,” Belichick said (via Mike Petraglia of CLNSMedia). “That usually develops a lot of bad habits, and a lot of the techniques that a player would have the chance to work on and improve with pads, that opportunity just isn’t there without pads.”
Belichick said it’s hard to simulate real-time tempo, penetration, and combination blocks without pads, leading players to get used to incorrect techniques or pick up bad habits.
“It’s just hard to simulate those and hard to get the timing of those when you’re just standing up watching each other without pads a lot,” Belichick said. He compared it to golf and going to the driving range and then expecting to be good at putting without having practiced it.
However, as Belichick noted, every team has to deal with the same rules, so it’s not as if any one team has an advantage.
“All teams are operating under the same set of rules, so it is what it is, but it’s hard,” Belichick said, adding, “It’s hard to tell a guy, ‘This is what you should do,’ but he really can’t go out there and practice it.”
The limited number of padded practices were obviously put into place for player safety and to try and keep players healthy for the actual games. Of course, as Belichick argued, by limiting what players can do in practice, it becomes difficult for them to then execute it in a real game.
It seems as if this rule is just another thing to add to the numerous issues the league and players will have to discuss during the next CBA negotiations.