NFL Finally Working to Eliminate Outdated Way of Measuring First Downs

There have been many changes in the NFL this offseason already. One of the biggest came during the owner’s meetings, which completely changed the way that kickoffs would happen. The league adopted a model that was made famous by the XFL.

Read more: NFL News: Breakdown of Wild Proposed Kickoff Rule for 2024 Season

Eagles watching as referees measure chain
PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA – NOVEMBER 01: Officials use the chain to measure for a first down during an NFL game against the Dallas Cowboys on November 1, 2020 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The NFL is finally working…

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Another big change was the controversial banning of the hip-drop tackle, which led to an increase in player injuries. The league is always attempting to increase player safety, and though many believe this tackle being banned is a bit ridiculous, it should help prevent these injuries.

Just months after these big changes were made, a new historic change has just been announced. The NFL is officially moving towards eliminating the way that first downs are measured and will be using a brand-new electronic system to help determine first-down yardage more accurately.

Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports first broke the news that there is a new optical tracking system that is set to be implemented during preseason games. Should this new way of measuring line-to-gain rulings be successful, it will be approved, and used throughout the entirety of the 2024 NFL season.

According to Jones, “The NFL is moving forward this preseason with an optical tracking system for line-to-gain rulings, sources tell CBS Sports. The system had been tried out in a few NFL stadiums this past season, and it will get a full preseason trial this summer. If the trial goes well and everyone’s on board, the tracking system will be implemented full time for the 2024 NFL regular season, sources say.”

There have been plenty of complaints for many seasons about human error. Referees do their best to accurately measure first-down yardage, but the chains are heavy and clunky enough that many errors have been made for years.

Though the NFL is rolling this system out this preseason, they do understand that the electronic way of measuring first-down yardage has to work.

“If the system works, it would make for a more accurate measuring system that reduces the amount of human error. If the league sees there are problems such as latency issues in the preseason, the move can be tabled until 2025 with the chain crew continuing to do the same job as always,” Jones added.

Jones also indicates that the league plans to keep the chains as a secondary option should this new electronic system cause any sort of issues. The chains will remain on the sideline and be a reference point for coaches and fans at the games.

All NFL footballs have also been microchipped for years, and these chips will allow this system to more accurately read ball placement. It was tested at both MetLife Stadium and Hard Rock Stadium last year and would need to be installed in the other 30 stadiums if it is successful during the preseason.

This has to be the biggest change the NFL has made this offseason, and it could make games far more exciting. Plenty of fans and coaches have complained about ball placement, and now human error on this subject might finally be a thing of the past.