According to Pro Football Talk, the NFL's Competition Committee is considering making some changes to the way kickoffs are handled in the 2011 season and beyond, and it could give the Minnesota Vikings some added incentive to re-sign kicker Ryan Longwell when they're able to.
Among the proposed changes are the moving of kickoffs up from the 30 to the 35-yard line, and touchbacks giving the receiving team the ball at the 25 rather than the 20. So, as PFT says, there's a greater chance for the kicker to kick the ball into the end zone, and more incentive for the returner to stay in the end zone when that happens.
The other major parts of the rule would be the complete elimination of any sort of "wedge" blocking, and requiring all of the players on the team kicking the ball away to line up between the 30 and the 35 yard line. This would take away the "everybody on the kicking team huddle up at about the 20-yard line, then break out and get a huge running start" method of kickoffs that some teams have adopted.
A few thoughts on this. . .
1) As a fan of a team that has to see the Chicago Bears twice a year, thank you to the NFL for potentially killing any advantage that having the NFL's best special teams year in and year out gives Chicago. . .specifically Devin Hester.
2) For a guy like Ryan Longwell, who may be the most accurate kicker in the NFL but doesn't really have the range on his kickoffs that we might like, this is potentially a boon. Teams that played the Vikings last year, on average, had the best starting field position in the league, largely because the majority of Longwell's kickoffs don't get terribly close to the end zone. An extra five yards would be huge, and something like this could help Longwell get back to the Vikings, as his accuracy for a team that could end up settling for a lot of field goals next season would be huge.
3) By that same token, if you're a "kickoff specialist," you might want to start working on your accuracy, because a rule like this might mean that you find yourself out of a job. An extra five yards means that a lot of teams aren't going to have to employ somebody specifically because they can kick the ball into the end zone on kickoffs.
What are your thoughts on this rule if it goes forward?