The NFL is changing the kickoff rules again in an attempt to make the most dangerous play in the game a little safer.
There will be a trial run in 2018 and the league will take a look at its findings next spring.
For now, here are the basics of the new kickoff rules:
• No more running starts for kicking team
• Eight of 11 kick returning players must be in setup zone (15 yards from the ball)
• No blocking in setup zone before the ball is touched
• No more two-man wedge blocks
• Kickoff team must have five players on each side of the ball
Following today’s vote at the @NFL Spring League Meetings, here’s everything you need to know about the new kickoff rules for the upcoming 2018 season. The rule will be reevaluated next offseason. pic.twitter.com/YubLyMBR4g— NFL Football Operations (@NFLFootballOps) May 22, 2018
So what does this mean for the Eagles and Dave Fipp’s unit, which has been considered one of the best in the league since he took over?
Well, we’ll start with the Eagles when they kick off because that’s where we might see the most drastic change. Last season, Jake Elliott kicked off 84 times and had 42 touchbacks. There were 16 kickers in the league (at least 35 kickoffs) who had a higher touchback percentage. And it’s no coincidence.
During last season, in October, Malcolm Jenkins actually challenged Fipp to allow players to make plays (see story). Basically, the Eagles kicked the ball short of the goal line, betting that they could bring players down before the 25-yard line.
The rule restricting that running start might make them think twice.
When the Eagles are returning kicks, maybe they’ll try to return more. Last year, the Eagles were 26th in the league in kick return average at 19.7 yards per return. And they returned just 18 kicks, the fewest amount in the NFL.
The Eagles lost their primary kick returner, Kenjon Barner, in free agency. So they’ll have a new returner, who might have some extra space to work with.
It has been argued that these rules will actually increase the number of kick returns, while also making the play safer. We’ll see.