The NFL owners voted to change the rules for kickoffs on Tuesday, reportedly by a vote of 26 to six. Kickoffs will move from the 30 to the 35 yard line. However, not all of the changes proposed were passed by the owners.
With the input of coaches, though, the committee decided to allow return teams to have a two-man wedge. The committee proposal suggested the elimination of the two-man wedge, but coaches argued that would make it harder to have quality returns.
The other tradeoff by the committee to get the vote passed was not changing the spotting of a touchback. Touchbacks will still be spotted at the 20-yard line. The committee had suggested moving touchbacks to the 25.
The final element of the change in the kickoff rule was adjusting the running starts for the coverage teams before the kickoff. Before, coverage players could get a 10- to 15-yard start before the kicker makes contact with the ball. Under the new rule, coverage players will only get a 5-yard running start. That was what the competition committee had recommended.
For all the talk about how this will hurt teams, the Kansas City Chiefs should benefit immediately.
Last season Ryan Succop only managed eight touchbacks, putting him 19th in the league. With these extra five yards, that number could triple, taking a lot of pressure off what was an average Chiefs coverage unit.
I’ve heard the screams from the other side, “But this takes away the threat of Dexter McCluster and Javier Arenas on kickoffs!”
The problem with that argument is that neither was a weapon on kickoffs. One of the most exciting plays of the year was delivered by McCluster last season, but that was on a punt return and happened Week 1. The rest of the year was filled with disappointing returns or penalties bringing back the ones that weren’t. All told, the Kansas City kick return unit ranked 28th in the NFL and didn’t produce a single return longer than 37 yards.
Down the road when the Chiefs are a deeper team with better special teams units, maybe this is a rule that will end up hurting their offense. But right now it can only serve as in improvement on both sides of the ball for Kansas City, whenever it is they are allowed to line up and play.