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Limiting pass interference to a 15-yard penalty would be good for the NFL

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Limiting most or all defensive pass-interference penalties to 15-yards would be good for the NFL. But it would only be a start, as a few other defensive penalties that favor offenses so heavily could also use some tweaking.

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Every offseason, the NFL and its Competition Committee propose ideas and rule changes as a means to make its sport safer, fairer, more exciting, etc. Some of  these proposals are accepted, while others are shelved until the next offseason.

A good deal of the time, these new proposals and their implementations are met with outrage and scoffs from fans and players, alike.

But the proposal that was put forth this week, the one about the league perhaps making pass-interference penalties 15-yards and not spot-fouls? That's a proposal this fan hopes goes through. Like Jack Ham said many years ago regarding a 59 yard pass interference penalty called on the unfortunate soul covering Randy Moss during a game in 1998: "Nothing short of pulling a gun on the field should result in a 59-yard penalty."

For one thing, it's just plain not fair to a defensive back and the entire team he's representing on the football field. There are some instances when pass-interference is so flagrant and so obvious, a spot-foul is clearly warranted (hopefully, if this proposal does go through, there would be some wiggle room, so a defender can't just out-and-out trip or tackle a receiver who has beaten him badly in the open field), but, the majority of the time, there's a lot of ambiguity when defensive pass-interference is called.

And just because a quarterback passes a football in a receiver's direction, this doesn't automatically mean that receiver will catch said football. Receivers drop passes all the time--even with they're not interfered with--so it's really a disservice to defenders to so harshly penalize them simply for making contact with the player they're covering down field.

Along with the new rules on what constitutes a catch in today's NFL (as stupid and illogical as those rules often appear to be to you, me and Dez Bryant), doing away with 40 and 50 yard pass-interference penalties may go a long way in making things more fair for defenses.

But why stop there?

Why should defensive holding and illegal contact (both five-yard penalties) result in automatic first downs for the offense? How many times have you witnessed a huge stop by the Steelers' defense on third-down and very long, only to throw your hands on your head and scream in disbelief because of a five-yard illegal contact penalty against a defender covering a receiver who may or may not have been his quarterback's target on the play?

If it's third and 23, and Cameron Heyward jumps offsides in his zest to "Wreck" another quarterback, it's not suddenly first and 10 for the opposing offense; it's simply third and 18.

Rewarding an offense so emphatically in such an instance is nothing but a competitive imbalance for the league. It's one thing to want scoring and excitement, but creating these types of advantages just seems like overkill.

There are more rules I'd like to see implemented, such as automatic reviews for roughing the passer penalties if they are called because the official initially determined the defender led with his head or made contact with the quarterback's face or head. I don't believe reviewing defenseless receiver penalties would be productive, because how can one really determine whether or not a receiver was defenseless simply by reviewing it on tape? That should remain a judgment call, as should other safety penalties such as late hits on quarterbacks. But, when it comes to whether or not a player led with his helmet or made contact with someone else's? I believe that can be easily determined by a review. Some might say these kinds of delays would hurt the league, but how many calls would this rule affect in an NFL game? One or two, on average? It would allow defenders to actually play the game fast and with aggression, as opposed to being hesitant and a step slow because they're worried about target areas.

And it wouldn't reinstate a defender's license to head-hunt (a foul is still a foul), it would just occasionally let him off the hook if an official thought he saw something that didn't happen.

I think NFL fans would benefit by an extra delay or two, rather than having to, again, place  their hands on their heads and scream in disbelief after witnessing someone like Jason Worilds get penalized 15-yards following a textbook sack, such as the one he laid on Matt Ryan last December.

There are many ways the NFL can make things better for defenders, but limiting defensive pass-interference to 15-yards is a good place to start.