PLANT CITY — The inventive rules of the new XFL surely favor the offense. The most interesting deviation being implemented on that side of the ball allows teams an unprecedented look — the opportunity to throw two forward passes on a single play.
The league, which opens its season this weekend, wants to see games that move the ball quickly down the field. And allowing a double forward pass helps that goal. With so many teams running offenses from the shotgun — and the Vipers are expected to do so with former Plant High star Aaron Murray at quarterback — the rule allows more opportunity to stretch the length of the field without going backward. In the NFL, only lateral passes are allowed behind the line of scrimmage in order to throw another pass.
The rule should make for an easier job for officials because they only need to discern whether passes are made behind the line of scrimmage. A quarterback who catches his own deflected pass would be able to pass again.
It also gives offenses another way of running unconventional trick plays that fans like to see, bringing the fast-paced, offensive-minded football the XFL promises to display.
“I think its pretty exciting,” Vipers wide receiver Reece Horn said. “We haven’t focused too much on that. We have so many other plays going in, but I think it will definitely excite the game, make things go a little more interesting and make defenses think a little bit more. ... When they put that in, being a receiver, you think it’s another way for you to get the ball.”
While the XFL is promoting the double forward pass rule as one that will add excitement, it’s not to say the league will resemble pinball. How often such trick plays will be run early in the season as teams finalize familiarizing themselves with personnel and offensive strategy is unclear.
“I think it will be an evolution,” Vipers head coach Marc Trestman said. “Some people will make it more of a priority early on than others. and others will just try to get their systems of football in place and take it a little slower. It just remains to be seen over the next month.”
But as the XFL promises an exciting, fast-paced brand of football, how often will teams take advantage of rules allowing double passes?
“You’ll see,” Murray said. “You’ll probably see three or four in all the games in the first week. I’m sure some people will try to take advantage of it.”
With the skill set of the weapons they have on offense, the Vipers are potentially built to take advantage. The Vipers will likely run at least some sets where they essentially have two quarterbacks on the field with former USF quarterback Quinton Flowers lining up next to Murray in the shotgun.
"It's going to be interesting, especially with the athletes we have on our team," Murray said. "Who knows what Coach Trestman has up his sleeve. ... When it comes to game week, we're going to have some wrinkles up our sleeve and something we'll run throughout the season."
Offensive players are excited about the rule, because it allows them another way to put their skill set on film. Vipers wide receiver Ryan Davis, who was a quarterback at Lakewood High School, said he’s looking forward to the chance to potentially throw a pass from the receiver position.
“I hope so,” said Davis. “If Coach gives me the opportunity, I’m definitely going to take advantage of that.”