Seattle Seahawks right tackle Germain Ifedi leads the NFL in penalty flags drawn with 17 and penalties accepted with 13, and has drawn the ire of many Hawks fans with repeated stupid mistakes over the course of the season.
The number of penalty flags refs are tossing in Ifedi’s direction is unacceptable. Ifedi has 31% more penalty flags drawn in 2017 than the second most flagged player in the entire league. The flags thrown as a result of Ifedi’s actions this season have included eight for holding, six for false starts, two for unnecessary roughness and one for taunting.
To try to get a better understanding of this I took a quick look at a couple of items - in particular how does the seventeen flags compare to offensive linemen league wide, and how does it compare on a per-snap basis. First, I pulled up a list of the ten offensive linemen in the NFL with the most flags thrown against them, and that is as follows:
Most penalized offensive players in the NFL
As seen, the list actually bloats from ten to thirteen names because of the five way tie for ninth place. Interestingly, only two of the thirteen names on the list are not tackles, definitely seeming to show that NFL tackles are indeed on an island. This island does not appear limited simply to them having to face off against a rushing defender one on one in space, but also out in the open for the refs to see and flag on a more frequent basis. Obviously, any solid conclusions on this topic would require a far more in depth look than a simple sample of three quarters of a season for thirteen linemen, but it is at least something interesting to keep in mind for the future.
Next, I wanted to see if the greater number of penalties Ifedi faced may have been the result of being on the field for more plays than the other tackles listed. Thus, I took the above table and added in the snap counts for each player. From there, I looked at how often these players were flagged relative to the number of snaps for which they were on the field.
Most penalized offensive players NFL wide on a per snap basis
Here Ifedi looks slightly better than in the previous comparison, simply because Chris Clark has not played as many snaps and the rate at which Ifedi is flagged is only 15% greater than the rate at which Clark is penalized. I guess that’s slightly better, but the difference between Ifedi and Garett Bolles is still nearly the same, at 29% for the rate stat compared to the 30% for the absolute numbers. That difference is so small that it’s not even worth testing to see if it is a statistically significant difference. It’s not. Basically, Ifedi gets called for a lot of penalties and he needs to improve. Period, the end.
One thing that this does bring up that warrants noting, is that in looking at all of the players at the top of this list, the top five all have one thing in common. Ifedi, as we know, is playing tackle for the first time in his NFL career this season. Behind him, Bolles and Cam Robinson are both rookies, and then Laremy Tunsil and Shon Coleman are also in their first season starting at tackle. In summary, the top five offensive players across the league are all offensive linemen who are starting at tackle for the first time in their pro careers. I have not looked into this any further than what is laid out here, so I have absolutely no idea if this is something that holds across multiple seasons, or if it is just the randomness of the way the 2017 season has played out. Either way, it’s something that is getting put on the list of things to evaluate during the offseason.
Thus, during the offseason while I’m working on taking a deeper look into this matter, I’ll be expecting Ifedi to be working on cleaning up his penalty issues.