With a new emphasis being placed on defensive holding and illegal contact penalties this year, NFL defensive backs are trying to find the line between aggressiveness and over-aggressiveness, just enough contact and too much contact, legal and illegal.
It's a fine one, but members of the Patriots secondary know they can't give up the search just because flags are flying at an alarming rate this preseason.
"In the past you could be way more aggressive," Revis said after Friday's preseason game against the Eagles, in which nine defensive holding and illegal contact infractions were whistled.
"Now in the future since the rules have changed, we gotta play different. We gotta play within the rules. Yeah it's going to be a little bit different, but we gotta do the best job we can by sticking to what we're being taught. At the same time, we're still going to try to play aggressive. We're still going to try to play physical and aggressive as much as we can as a defense."
But is that even possible with the way penalties are being called this summer?
"Yeah. We can," Revis said. "It's just a matter of doing our techniques and doing what we're taught to do everyday in practice. Football's a physical sport. I don't think you can really take the physical part out of football. [Dont'a] Hightower made a great hit [in the first quarter against the Eagles] and the ball popped up in the air. There's still parts of the game that are physical, but it's just more so with a wide receiver and a DB, there's just certain things we can't do. Illegal contact, pass interference, there's a bunch of things we can't do that maybe in the past you would've gotten away with as a defensive player."
Expect the Patriots defensive backs to remain physical at the catch point and after passes have been caught. But before? As tightly as penalties are being called this preseason, they know they're going to have to be careful to play within the rules. They did a good job of that on Friday as they were flagged for just one penalty in the secondary while the Eagles racked up the majority of the calls.