Going about their business as if it’s business as usual, the NFL today officially announced the much discussed changes in the kicking game. After all the dust settled the only real difference is that kickoffs will be moved up five yards to the 35-yard line.
Amazing how those five little yards can make such a difference.
For the Raiders, it is a difference that both helps and hurts the special teams.
Sebastian Janikowski and his mega leg will almost certainly see an increase in touchbacks. Already capable of splitting the uprights on kickoffs, another five yards assures there will be plenty of souvenir footballs kicked into the stands on Sundays when Seabass lines up and drops his arm.
But the competition committee giveth and the competition committee taketh just alike.
For Jacoby Ford it means he’ll see even less action. Already a threat to take any kick to the house, the fourth round steal wasn’t likely to see many teams try his talents whenever we have football again. Now those teams are being given a five yard cushion to force Ford to either take a knee of make an even longer run from deep in his own endzone.
There has been plenty of blowback from many teams regarding these out-of-nowhere changes. The league will argue that this is another change meant to protect player safety but that seems like a stretch. There are plenty of injuries that occur on kick returns, no doubt. As anyone who has played the game will tell you it is every man for himself in the kick coverage game.
My thing is if this is really all about safety then why not just abolish the kickoff all together? I’m all for protecting the players but the kickoff is a vital weapon for many teams in the league. If the goal is to keep the players safe then why keep it at all if you’re just going to continuously marginalize it?
But I digress. As of now this is all just an exercise in spinning the tires. As of now we’re still without the NFL. Unless ,of course, the league chooses to go out and bring in scabs replacement players. In that case it won’t matter where you kick the ball from as it will all be ugly football anyway.