Another NFL season, another series of roughing the passer penalties we just don’t understand. We already had one on Jacksonville Jaguars first overall pick Travon Walker in the Hall of Fame game, and now, Dallas Cowboys rookie pass-rush Sam Williams finds himself on the wrong side of whatever the heck the NFL deems to be roughing the passer at any particular moment in time.
Williams, selected in the second round of the 2022 draft out of Mississippi, showed his quicks getting out of the pocket on Saturday night as the Cowboys faced the Denver Broncos. Denver quarterback Brett Rypien broke out of the pocket to the right, and Williams (No. 54) did what he was supposed to to. He chased the quarterback, caught up to him, and didn’t seem to give any additional oomph as Rypien released the ball.
Dallas’ head coach was not amused, and we can’t really blame him.
Mike McCarthy just waved his hands in disgust at referee Alex Kemp while protesting the 12th penalty assessed against Dallas — roughing the passer on rookie Sam Williams.
— Ed Werder (@WerderEdESPN) August 14, 2022
Perhaps Alex Kemp and his crew thought that Williams was leading with the helmet, but that would be a pretty iffy call. Other than that, we’re not sure what Williams did wrong here. Because Rypien had left the pocket, he lost certain protections available to him, so… we remain unsure.
Every year, it seems necessary to post the NFL’s rules on roughing the passer. The most important part of the rule, right down at the bottom: “When in doubt about a roughness call or potentially dangerous tactic against the quarterback, the Referee should always call roughing the passer.”
We’re thinking that’s what happened here. Anyway, as we prepare for more hair-pulling calls, here’s what the NFL has to say about it — officially.
Because the act of passing often puts the quarterback (or any other player attempting a pass) in a position where he is particularly vulnerable to injury, special rules against roughing the passer apply. The Referee has principal responsibility for enforcing these rules. Any physical acts against a player who is in a passing posture (i.e. before, during, or after a pass) which, in the Referee’s judgment, are unwarranted by the circumstances of the play will be called as fouls. The Referee will be guided by the following principles:
Penalty: For Roughing the Passer: Loss of 15 yards and an automatic first down; disqualification if flagrant.