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NFL Preseason turning into flag fest

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The NFL is 22 games into their Preseason schedule. The star of the games, thus far, may be the penalty flag.

Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Spor

The Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers face each other tonight as a part of the 2014 NFL Preseason schedule.  The two teams are both looking to continue their tuneup for the regular season, including locking down a starting offensive line and learning new systems.  Which brings us to our simple question:

Are you ready for some flags?

The NFL Preseason has been a flag fest.  The league has stated they want illegal contact called more this year, calling it a point of emphasis.  That message has been received by the referees, who seem to be throwing flags on nearly every play.  That may be a little hyperbole, and we all say that there are too many penalties every year.  This one is no different.

But it is.  Through the first 22 Preseason games, which includes last night's contests, there have been an average of 18.1 penalty flags per contest*.  That's up from the first 22 games in 2013, when the average was 12.2.  The games are hard to watch when every few plays, there's a flag flying and slowing down the rhythm of the game.  It drags out the game, and turns the referees into the story. [*These numbers are using penalties enforced, not penalty flags thrown if the penalty was declined.]

Don't believe me?

Refpass.0_medium

During the Chicago Bears and Jacksonville Jaguars contest, this was an in-game highlight.  A referee throwing a flag 31-yards was spotlighted.  With how many times flags are thrown, it's not surprising that a ref can uncork a bomb. (Nice three-step drop before unleashing that, by the way.)

Flags are a major part of the game this Preseason.

In 2013's first 22 Preseason contests, three games had over 15 penalties enforced, one with 16, one with 17, and one with 18.  In 2014, there have been 14 of 22 games with more than 15 penalties enforced, two with 16, two with 18, three with 19, two with 21, two with 23, one with 24, one with 25, and one with 32.  Thirty-two flags on penalties enforced.  That's not even flags thrown but declined or offset.  Things are out of control.

In their Preseason Week 1 contest, the Dolphins were called for 10 penalties against the Atlanta Falcons.  The Buccaneers received the same treatment, being called for 11 penalties against the Jaguars.  Those two games were two of the three 19 penalties games thus far.

Which brings us back to the original question: Are you ready for some flags?  You should be, because it's likely to get ridiculous tonight.