There's an NFL evolution occurring before our eyes, and few times have it been more obvious than during January's NFC Championship Game or the 2023 regular season opener between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Detroit Lions.
In the Thursday night Week 1 showcase, on national television, newly signed Chiefs offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor appeared to be getting a jump on the snap count on almost every play. To the point that it became a national trend on X, and too frequent even to be ignored by the NBC broadcast crew calling the game at Arrowhead.
However, Taylor's movement before the snap seemingly went unnoticed by referee John Hussey's officiating crew.
Jawaan Taylor just jumped before his alarm clock. Probably.
The Chiefs tackle should have been flagged for a *bunch* of false starts vs. the Lionspic.twitter.com/xO9UitDaBC
— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) September 8, 2023
According to Warren Sharp, Hussey has a tendency for looking the other way when it comes to false start penalties, having called the penalty just once in 2022 and only one time during the 2021 campaign.
It wasn't until late in the second half of the Lions' 21-20 victory that Taylor was even flagged for a false start.
NFL analyst Brian Baldinger says Taylor went unflagged for good reason.
"It's not a penalty if he's in the two-point stance," Baldinger told FanBuzz. "Andrew Thomas does it. So does Lane Johnson. They're only playing by the rules."
However, while Taylor became the hot-topic of conversation among fans and former players across the nation on Thursday night, he's far from the first player to move early.
Back in January when the Philadelphia Eagles defeated the San Francisco 49ers to advance to the Super Bowl, All-Pro offensive tackle Lane Johnson caused an uproar when he seemingly was getting off early, in a game that he completely neutralized All-Pro Nick Bosa with a trip to Super Bowl Sunday at stake.
As it turns out, according to at least one offensive line expert, Johnson and Taylor might be bending the rule to the last syllable of the law, but neither are breaking it.
"The reason [false starts] are not being called is because they're not false starts. I think it's important to understand the rules. And to understand that within the rules, there are loopholes. Within those loopholes, you can start to build out techniques and strategies to take advantage of those," offensive line coach and founder of OL Masterminds Duke Manyweather tweeted.
If all 32 offensive line coaches aren't teaching their tackles to follow Manyweatheer's advice, they seem to be doing their players a disservice. Even if — and perhaps especially if — it is raising the ire of defensive players around the NFL.
Johnson is arguably the premier offensive tackle in the sport, and Taylor just inked an $80 million deal to join the Chiefs this offseason, underscoring how he is viewed inside the NFL.
While Johnson and Taylor's techniques might drive defensive ends and pass-rushers bonkers, don't be surprised if they continue to be a trend among tackles around the league.
"As you look at the rules, it talks about offensive player in a two-point stance and he has an ability to adjust. One of the things, from talking to referees, you are allowed to adjust your back-foot. The biggest thing they don't want to see, is the trunk rock forward, or the front-foot shift in the stance. So, the back-foot, you can move it, Lane does this a lot, Laremy Tunsil, a lot of your top tackles move their back-foot.
"This is kind of giving a way a trade-secret, but, you find your back-foot, you find a rhythm with that back-foot, as far as adjusting, and then you just adjust it, you adjust it, and it becomes a snap-timer," Manyweather said.
Whether it is announcers, reporters or fans, Manyweather believes that people need to change their perspective when it comes to watching and evaluating offensive tackle play.
"Just because you think you're seeing something," Manyweather said. "That it is fact. The rules are the facts. The tape are the facts. These guys aren't starting early."
Legal or not, it seems that the league addressing what is and isn't a false start penalty could avoid any confusion or controversy in the future.
Short of the NFL competition committee closing the loopholes inside which players such as Johnson and Taylor have now thrived, players will rightfully continue to use every edge they can find to their advantage, including this one.
Want More Sports News?
Get the biggest and best sports news sent directly to your inbox.