If there's one rule change in the NFL that's already turning into a small controversy after just three weeks, it's the new roughing the passer rule.
Under the rule change that was implemented this year, a defender is supposed to be flagged for roughing the passer any time they land on the quarterback with "all or most" of their body weight. Every defender seems to hate the rule, and for the past two weeks, Packers linebacker Clay Matthews has basically been the poster child for why the rule might not be working the way the league intended.
The NFL is likely going to be facing even more scrutiny about the rule this week after what happened to Dolphins defensive lineman William Hayes. During Miami's 28-20 win over Oakland on Sunday, Hayes tore his ACL on a play where he sacked Raiders quarterback Derek Carr.
During a press conference on Monday, Dolphins coach Adam Gase said the injury only happened because Hayes was trying to follow the NFL's new rule.
"He was trying to not put body weight on the quarterback, so his foot got caught in the ground," Gase said, via the team's official website.
As you can see below, Hayes tried to roll off of Carr after making the tackle.
Here's the William Hayes injury Adam Gase is talking about. Starts to bring Carr down, kicks his right leg out to avoid full weight on the QB, right knee bends at a bad angle. pic.twitter.com/mppooobEp2— Doug Farrar (@NFL_DougFarrar) September 24, 2018
Here's another angle of the hit.
Here's a better angle of the William Hayes injury. You can clearly see him kicking his right leg out, and the bad bend. The NFL needs to eliminate the "weight on the QB rule" now. Like, today. pic.twitter.com/ngS5GYqVEi— Doug Farrar (@NFL_DougFarrar) September 24, 2018
No matter how you spin it, this is a bad look for the NFL.
Matthews, Aaron Rodgers and Joe Flacco are three players who have all said the new rule doesn't really make any sense. With Hayes' injury, the rule looks even worse, because a defensive player now has to decide if he wants to make a sack and get flagged or try to awkwardly roll off the quarterback after the sack in a move that could lead to an injury.
If players weren't mad about the rule before, they're definitely upset now. Dolphins defensive lineman Akeem Spence says the new rule is 'Terrible."
"Let's keep it honest. That rule is a terrible rule," Spence said, via the Palm Beach Post. "He was trying to protect the quarterback. What do you want a guy to do?"
Not only is it terrible, but Spence says it's also kind of confusing for defenders.
"It's a tough rule to follow," Spence said. "What do they want a player to do? How much weight is too much weight? We're still asking questions just like y'all are."
Richard Sherman also shared his thoughts about Hayes' injury on Twitter.
They don’t care about the rest of us getting hurt. Long as the QB is safe https://t.co/ihjlz3lVQl— Richard Sherman (@RSherman_25) September 24, 2018
In Seattle, Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner pointed out that if a quarterback got hurt after a new rule was implemented that the NFL would change the rule right away.
This is very true. If a QB got hurt they would create a new rule today— Bobby Wagner (@Bwagz) September 24, 2018
Saints defensive lineman Cameron Jordan only had one word to say after seeing how Hayes got injured.
Wow.... 😶😶😶 https://t.co/Fx8nk1pQYU— cameron jordan (@camjordan94) September 24, 2018
Before the season started, it seemed like if any new rule was going to be controversial this year, it was going to be the NFL's new targeting rule. Instead, the body weight rule has left defenders flummoxed. Here's the rule, as written (via FMIA):
"A defensive player must not unnecessarily or violently throw [the quarterback] down or land on top of him with all or most of the defender's weight. Instead, the defensive player must strive to wrap up the passer with the defensive players' arms and not land on the passer."
Although Gase is an offensive coach, it doesn't sound like he's a big fan of the rule, which was put in to protect quarterbacks. The 3-0 Dolphins will now have to head to New England this week without one of their best defenders.
"It hurts," Gase said. "He's one of our leaders, probably best guys in the locker room, best run defender. That's going to be a tough one for us to swallow."
With Hayes out for the rest of the season, that likely means Charles Harris is going to get a considerable boost in playing time. Harris played in all 16 games last season after the Dolphins made him the 22nd overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.