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NFL considers adding ‘sky judge’ to accurately call games

NFL considers adding ‘sky judge’ to accurately call games
Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman delivers an early hit to New Orleans Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis late in the fourth quarter, thwarting a potential game-winning drive in the NFC Championship at the Superdome on Jan. 20. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

The more eyes, the better.

That’s what some NFL coaches feel about adding an eighth official to crews, a so-called “sky judge” who acts as a video official from the press box. The NFL’s competition committee has been discussing the concept in meetings this week at the scouting combine.

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The controversy surrounding an obvious pass interference call that was missed in the NFC championship game between the Rams and New Orleans Saints only ramped up the urgency to address the situation. (It should be noted the Saints were the beneficiaries of some missed calls in that Jan. 20 game, too, including a noncall of a facemask against Rams quarterback Jared Goff.)

Baltimore coach John Harbaugh is in favor of a video official.

“I know as a coach, what’s the worst spot to watch the game from? The sideline,” Harbaugh said. “You see the least amount from the sideline. That’s why you put coaches in the box. So we’ve got all this technology, and the fans actually have a better view of the game from an officiating standpoint than the officials do.

“So these clear and obvious mistakes that are inevitably going to get made, it’s not just one play in a championship game; it happens every single week, because the job is so tough and moves so fast, and the angles aren’t great. If we can put somebody up there in the box that has a better angle that can help officiate the game from up there, do that.”

What’s in a name?

Never met a Yodny? That’s no surprise to West Virginia offensive lineman Yodny Cajuste, who has never met another one.

“It’s definitely a unique name,” he said. “It’s something my mom named me; she made it up. I’m proud. I’m probably the only Yodny in the world.”

For the record, he’s no relation to former Stanford tight end Devon Cajuste, who was a central figure on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” last summer at Cleveland Browns training camp.

Growth potential

Even though he’s one of the better offensive linemen in this draft class, Washington State tackle Andre Dillard only got four scholarship offers coming out of high school. The others were from Portland State, Idaho, and Eastern Washington. He had good height at 6 feet 5 but was built more like a basketball player at 240 pounds.

He’s now 315.

“What they saw in me was my frame,” he said of Washington State. “I was this tall, skinny kid, but they saw the shoulders, the arm length, and the leg length. I guess they knew they could work with me.”

So how did he pack on the pounds?

“A lot of eating in the middle of the night,” he said. “Sometimes I’d set an alarm for 2 in the morning and drink a shake, then go back to sleep. … They just told me to literally eat everything, all the time.”

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Attitude adjustment

USC guard Chuma Edoga is determined to prove he has the maturity to successfully take the next step in his career. Part of that entails explaining why he was ejected and suspended for a game in 2016 for making contact with an official.

“[Teams] have been asking about that,” he said. “I just tell them, you know, I was a young kid, I let my emotions get the best of me, I made mistakes. But moving forward, I can’t let that affect my future or who I am growing to be. So I’m just taking that as a learning experience, chalking it up as an ‘L,’ and keeping it in the back of my mind as I grow into a better man.”

(Three-)pointed critique

With some of the passing offenses in college, there are a lot of offensive linemen who seldom assume a three-point stance, if ever. Instead of putting a hand on the ground, they’re always ready to drop back into pass protection. So it’s a big adjustment when that’s asked of them by NFL teams.

“Being in a two-point stance, you don’t have a lot of leverage,” said Penn State tackle Ryan Bates, who said he hasn’t been in a three-point stance the past two seasons. “One thing I definitely want to work on is using that leverage, getting under people, using that power to move people off the ball in the run game.”

Steve Keim, general manager of the Arizona Cardinals, was a guard at North Carolina State and basically lived with his hand on the ground. So to think today’s young linemen are unfamiliar with that is still a little bizarre to him.

“I’d never anticipated a day where I’d evaluate a guy in college who through four years didn’t get into a three-point stance one time,” Keim said. “I think back to 1991 when I entered N.C. State. For two days, I think that’s all we did was get into a three-point stance and perfect it. Where your hips are, where your eyes are, those type of things. Transferring your weight, the explosiveness of your hips, all the things that come with playing that position. It’s different.”

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