There is another new wrinkle being added to some preseason games this year, as was the case last season as well, a crew of eight on-field officials is being experimented with by the NFL. The last time any change was made to the amount of officials calling a game was in 1978, when the league was much more run-oriented. This report comes from the Associated Press.
The NFL has evolved much from its roots in the early part of the 20th century, while the modern game has grown to be a much more pass happy affair. The NFL began an experiment last preseason with an eighth, "deep" judge, who is being positioned in the middle of the field behind the secondary. The data gathered during the 20 games between last preseason and this will be analyzed to determine the viability of making an eighth official a permanent part of the game. Any such change would have to go to a vote of the league's ownership to be approved.
The eight officials basically divide up the field into four quadrants: the side and field judges line up similarly to where most cornerbacks do when playing a cover two scheme, the back and deep judges play behind the safeties, the head linesman and line judge take care of the outside ends of the line of scrimmage, and the umpire would handle the interior line play and linebackers, while the referee would have his concentration on the backfield area of quarterbacks, running backs, and pass rushers who have penetrated the line. The officials are really only looking to have another set of eyes over all vantage points in the passing game, and not necessarily looking to have more penalties called and slow down the pace of the game.
The question is how would this change, if eventually adopted, affect how the New York Jets play each game? I believe it would certainly showcase the strength of the Jets secondary and man-to-man coverage offered up by both Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie. The safeties Jim Leonhard and Eric Smith as usual would then be freed up in coverage for anyone who enters the middle of the field and also blitzes coming from that area of the secondary. Initially there may be more penalties mainly called for illegal use of hands but I am sure the Jets would very likely not be affected at all by this change, and neither would most teams who play the same schemes in the secondary.
So if you have a watchful eye on any of the remaining preseason games be sure to see if you can count how many officials are on the field, and know that it's not a mistake if you count more than the usual seven. The speed of play has changed, and so might the officiating, for the better of the game.
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