the study of the kicking components within sports

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Kickoffs On The Move Again

A century after the first change, kickoffs are once again on the move.

1912: The starting point of all kickoffs was moved back from the 50 to the 40-yard line.

1974: Kickoffs were moved from the 40 back to the 35-yard line.

1994: The starting point of all kickoffs was moved back from the 35 to the 30-yard line.

2011: Kickoffs will move from the 30 to the 35-yard line, reversing the previous pattern of farther distances. Although it had been suggested to move touchbacks to the 25-yard line, they will continue to be spotted at the 20-yard line. Players on the coverage team will also now be limited to a five yard running start before the kicker makes contact with the ball.

Several current NFL kickers weighed in with their thoughts on the recent changes...

Joe Nedney, San Francisco 49ers
"That move to the 30 (yard line) is kind of what got me into the NFL. It invented the kickoff specialist."

Graham Gano, Washington Redskins
"It will be easier to hit touchbacks. If we’re playing against, say, a Devin Hester [star Chicago Bears returner] it will be easier to just kick it out of the end zone.... I think it [limited run-up] will be good, too, because we’re good at hanging it up there and getting our guys down and making plays. I think we’ll still be able to do that. We’ll just be putting it further down field and we’ll get a head start.”

Ryan Longwell, Minnesota Vikings
"Obviously, I was pretty excited when I heard about it. I think John Kasay [who is 41] actually put it best. He’s been trying to get to age 22 again all these years but he can’t, so moving it up 5 yards certainly kind of does that for you. All of a sudden the goal line is in reach to open up some strategy stuff that you can pad it in the end zone, you can kick it in the corner with some higher hang time and stuff the team down there. I was certainly excited about it. The way my career has gone, I’ve been blessed to play this long. I would think that this could give me some more years at the end of this.... We’ve been directional kicking, so it’s a little misleading with where it’s going to the corners. I always felt that my normal ball I could get to the 1- or 2-yard line, when you’re swinging away down the middle and having decent hang time. When you move it up 5 yards, naturally you train a little different in the offseason to be able to hit the quote-unquote home run ball. It’s within range now. ... I’ve talked to a bunch of older kickers around the league in the last couple of days and we’re all kind of excited about it because naturally it helps us all."

Robbie Gould, Chicago Bears
"Teams will still say, 'We're good enough in coverage, go ahead and bring it out, try to return it, and if you get to the 16, 17 or 18, it's [OK]'. If the kick goes 4 yards deep with 4.0 hang time, returners are definitely going to run it out. Touchbacks will definitely go up but I don't necessarily think, because the kicks are going to be deeper, that there will stop being returns."

David Buehler, Dallas Cowboys
"It puts me five yards closer of achieving my goal on every kickoff which is booming it deep in the end zone and forcing the opposing team to drive 80 yards on our defense. It's also easier at shutting down some of the electrifying returners they've got in the game these days."

Jay Feely, Arizona Cardinals
"Personally, I’m very happy about it. I think all the veteran kickers are happy about it. I do think it will definitely take some excitement out of the game. It eliminates good returns from guys like LaRod (Stephens-Howling), Devin Hester, Leon Washington.... I can see [touchbacks] doubling from last year. If you take kicks that were 3 to 5 yards deep last year, now they are eight to 10 yards deep and will not returned. It's possible though that returners will take more chances."

Billy Cundiff, Baltimore Ravens
"I don't see why the majority of teams don't try to kick the ball six- or seven-yards into the end zone. I think it's a very good rule change for the kickoff team, and not a good rule change for the kickoff return team. Obviously, I'm excited. It's the first time they made a rule that benefits a kicker. [But] fans don't like to see kickers kick the ball into the end zone all the time for touchbacks.... I think the guys who may have been run out of the league before because of kickoff issues, they may stay a little longer.... Like all other rules, what they think initially may not actually happen. You have to be careful what you incentive-ize. Now they're incentive-izing touchbacks."
Josh Scobee, Jacksonville Jaguars
"Thank you NFL for the rule change, moving kickoffs to the 35. It'll feel like college again! #bombsaway"

No comments:

Post a Comment