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Breaking down the kickoff rule fallout

Garrett Hartley Super Bowl XLIV onside kick

So now that the kickoff point has been moved from the 30 back to the 35 (it was once at the 40), what does it all mean?

Here are our thoughts.

First, the move will obviously increase the number of touchbacks. With legs getting stronger and the distance to the end zone now only 65 yards, a 70-yard kick makes the taking of a knee likely and a 75-plus-yard kick removes all doubt.

Second, coaches will be less likely to devote roster spots to kickoff specialists and/or to kickoff return specialists. Both class of player had better be able to do something else, or else.

Third, keeping the touchback point at the 20 will make teams more inclined to return the ball out of the end zone, since the break-even point will be easier to achieve.

Fourth, teams could be somewhat more inclined to try onside kicks, since the ball will be five yards closer to paydirt if the kicking team recovers -- and five yards farther away if the kicking team doesn’t. Some think the elimination of the running start (the window has been reduced to five yards) balances that out. In a tight window like that, however, it may not matter. Besides, the difference in teammate ETA can be accounted for in the kicking of the ball, with the kickers coming up with ways to get the ball to the 10-yard point.

Fifth, and finally, the move represents a rare decision by the league that will impact field position and, in turn, scoring. When the league moved the kickoff point from the 35 to the 30, the goal was to improve field position and, in turn, offensive production. That benefit will now evaporate.

Sixth, and finally, the new kickoff point will become a potential factor in postseason games that go to overtime. If a team has a kicker with a strong leg and that team wins the toss, the team should instruct the kicker to put the ball in the front row of the end zone seats, pinning the receiving team at their own 20 and eliminating the possibility of a one-play extra session. Then, if the kicking team can force a three-and-out, a game-winning field goal could be only a couple of first downs away.