New NFL kickoff rules can be taken advantage of by aggressive teams
Posted on Monday, September 05, 2011 at 11:30 AM
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The New England Patriots' released Brandon Tate this week who landed with the Cincinnati Bengals. Tate likely lost his job as a direct result of the new kickoff rule in the NFL that littered the regular season with more touchbacks than returns.
For the coming season, all kickoffs will be taken from the 35 yard line while every runner has to be within five yards of the 35 yard line before starting their run.
These new rules have obviously taken out a lot of the excitement for fans and one team has already shown their displeasure as the Chicago Bears kicked off from the 30 yard line in the preseason.
Chicago Bears' head coach Lovie Smith understands that his team are being hurt by these new rules as he had one of the best returning groups in the league.
However there are some teams that will be able to take advantage of these rules should they approach the game more aggressively.
Throughout the preseason teams repeatedly had their kickers look to kick the ball through the endzone if possible for a touchback.
The preseason is always approached with a more vanilla attitude but the regular season should see some teams take a more aggressive approach to these new rules.
Instead of kicking through the endzone and giving the opposition a guaranteed start at the 20 yard line, those more courageous coaches that trust their coverage and have a talented kicker could look to put more height on the ball and keep it in play by the goal line forcing a return.
This way teams wouldn't be giving teams an automatic start from the 20 yard line but could have a chance to pin their opposition even deeper in their own territory.
Territory is a vital aspect of football. Playing the game in the opposition's half is always better than playing it in your own but possession is even more important.
Some teams will be more tempted to take more risks and try to gain an extra possession now as they start from the 35 yard line.
It may only be a five yard difference from last season but it is a crucial five yards because a failed onside kick now doesn't put any teams in field goal range. A field goal is generally 17 yards further out than the line of scrimmage from the goalposts.
A failed onside kick that landed at the 40 yard line or closer gives many teams in the league a chance to kick a field goal even if the defense shuts down the offense.
A failed onside kick that landed at the 45 yard line or closer doesn't give teams that chance as not many kickers will repeatedly attempt 60+ yard field goals.
It may only be a small percentage increase but teams that are looking to be more aggressive and gain extra possessions will likely consider and ultimately attempt more onside kicks during regular season games this year opposed to any that preluded it.
So while the Bears and other teams are frustrated by the shackles put on Devin Hester, Percy Harvin and Jacoby Ford, others may be seeing a new freedom in special teams play this year.
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