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The 5 O’Clock Club: Penalties

It’s 5 o’clock somewhere…

Chicago Bears v Buffalo Bills

The 5 o’clock club is published Wednesday to Saturday during the season, and aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.

All the statistics shown in this article were found at It’s a great site with tons of information in its data base that goes back many seasons and is totally sortable across dozens of categories and groupings. I encourage you to have a look and explore the numbers for yourself.

Total Penalties across the league, Weeks 1 - 3, 2019

Penalties called league-wide dropped from an average of about 252 per week in Weeks 1 & 2 to “just” 216 in Week 3. This is a drop of about 14%.

In all, 721 penalties have been called in the first three weeks of the 2019 season. Last season, the number was 705 — a difference of 16 penalties across 48 games.

Thus far, the Redskins are 4th worst in the league in the number of penalties called, at 27.

A total of 11 teams have 24 penalties or more, and only 8 teams have less than 20.

With 721 penalties total across the league, the mathematical average is 22 penalties per team (or 7.5 penalties per game). This seemed high to me, so I checked the number for all of 2018. Teams averaged 6.97 penalties per team, per game (3,569 penalties) in 2018, so not a big difference. Considering that the number of penalties is expected to be higher early in the season, this seems like it falls in the “normal” range.

While the Redskins are 4th in number of penalties, they are “only” 8th in penalty yardage assessed.

Here are the ranks for number of penalties by Redskins unit:

  • Offense — 5th worst (15/122 yards)
  • Defense — 9th worst (9/55 yards)
  • Special Teams - 14th worst (3/24 yards)

The offense and defense are both among the worst pre-snap offenders in the league. Special teams hasn’t had a pre-snap penalty.

Some interesting ad hoc stats

Donald Penn is one of only 44 players in the league to have 3 or more penalties so far this season.

Bears @ Redskins - With a total of 23 total flags thrown (9 accepted against each team) this was one of only 9 games (out of 48) to have at least 23 flags thrown.

The Philly game had 20 total flags and the Dallas game had 18.

Most commonly called penalties

Here’s a look at some information about the most commonly called penalties:

The Redskins rank as the second-worst (behind Jax) in the offensive holding penalties, which is the most common penalty in the NFL. Redskins have had 9 holds for 86 yards in 3 games.

The ‘Skins are tied with 4 other teams for 10th worst in false start penalties, with 4 flags and 20 yards.

Washington is one of ten teams with just a single defensive holding penalty. Another 9 teams have no flags at all for this defensive foul.

The numbers are similar for Defensive Pass Interference. There are 7 teams that have not been flagged for this penalty, while the Redskins are one of 11 teams with as single DPI flag (for a total of 7 yards).

Some Redskins penalty history for context

  • In 2018, the Redskins were 11th worst in the league in total penalties, with 115 for 1008 yards.
  • In 2017, the Redskins were 4th BEST with 92 for 733 yards.
  • In 2016, the Redskins were right in the middle, at #16, with 110 for 909 yards.
  • In 2015, the ‘Skins were 15th best, with 112 for 884 yards.
  • The Redskins worst year since 2012 was Jay Gruden’s first year as head coach (2014) when the team ranked 9th worst, with 120 penalties for 1,129 yards.

Every Redskins player that has been flagged in 2019


What is the key factor in the number of penalties assessed against the Redskins each season?

This poll is closed

  • 32%
    The actions of the players on the field
    (29 votes)
  • 25%
    (23 votes)
  • 7%
    The particular referees assigned to each game
    (7 votes)
  • 20%
    Anti-Redskins bias
    (18 votes)
  • 10%
    A desire to keep certain teams (eg. Dallas) competitive in the playoff race
    (9 votes)
  • 3%
    Nothing... it’s largely random
    (3 votes)
  • 0%
    I have a different explanation
    (0 votes)
89 votes total Vote Now