The NFL’s decision to focus only on “clear and obvious” fouls apparently does not extend to neutral zone infractions.
The neutral zone is defined as, basically, the length of the soccer ball. Defenders cannot line up with their hands between the front and back of the ball.
Well, they can; the question is whether they will be caught when they do.
On several occasions during Pittsburgh’s Week 1 win over the Giants, it appeared linebacker TJ Watt was dangerously lined up near, if not right in the middle, of the neutral zone. In two separate games during the critical period of Sunday’s Jaguars-Titans game, Tennessee defensive end Jadeveon Clowney lined up clearly and obviously in the neutral zone.
The first instance came on a third and nine, with the game tied at 30. Clowney dispatched Jacksonville quarterback Gardner Minshew, who threw a check that forced a punt.
Then, after Tennessee took a 33-30 lead and with the Jaguars trying to get into a position to force overtime (or in theory to win the game in settlement with a touchdown), Clowney lined up even more. far past the tip of the ball on a second and a Jacksonville 45 game. While it didn’t affect play, a penalty would have wiped out a decisive interception, giving the Jaguars five yards and a first down.
If you have access to the great NFL Gamepass feature, go and see for yourself. The first seems clear; the second seems beyond the obvious. And if fouls like this won’t be called out, then each player on the board should take full advantage of the extra few inches that come from the roster in the neutral zone.