Today is, I'm told, Dr. Seuss' birthday which oddly coincides with the release of the movie "The Lorax" which I'm sure I'll see when it comes on FX in a year. Was never a huge fan of the Seuss movie conversions but always enjoyed the books. I'm a "Green Eggs and Ham" and "Horton Hears A Who" guy myself but you know, as long as the kids are still reading them that's all that counts. Great books and great ideals behind said books.
We need to remind all of you Fetch Friday supporters to get on board with our Guinness St. Patrick's Day promo. It's easy, it might help your favorite blogger out and yes, you might could win something. As always with the Fetch Friday we keep you in the mix so here's some Katy Perry, one of our faves.
So we've got a little to discuss today as the thoughts surrounding the rule change have been nestled in my noggin for about a week and thanks to all sorts of behind the scenes business I didn't really get to talk about them.
Over at Crystal Ball Run we got a chance to have a little Meeting of the Minds on the new rules but as always I've got plenty more to say with regards to my own personal football theories. Here is the new kicking rule (click it to make it gigantor and readable).
So basically we have kickoffs moved up to 35, touchbacks via kickoff are moved up to the 25, players only get a five yard running start. That's the rule at the nuts and bolts. Oh and the weird rule about how if the ball bounces once you can fair catch it which I actually think is pretty smart.
Kickoff comes up and that instantly is going to lead to more touchbacks, that's just science really folks. Kickers today have stronger legs than ever and they were already forcing touchbacks when kicking from the 30 so giving them five more yards is going to really just mean more kickoffs going through the uprights if your kicker is of that type.
The shorten running start honestly isn't that big of a deal to me. It will still be some 20 yards before the players actually collision the first row of blockers, and then still upwards of 30-40 before they hit the next wave. But, the moving up of the run through does do one big thing; make it easier to pick up blocking assignments and track blocks. No more bunch kicks where players fan out as the ball is being kicked. No more guys running behind to shoot the gap as an added fill guy in the middle, so that's a big deal.
However, moving players up five yards does also mean that the collisions will happen faster. Blockers have less time to get set up. It will be an interesting chess match to see how teams alter their kick return strategies to combat coverage units getting on top of them quicker.
As for the touchback being moved up five yards; it terrifies me. I'm a defensive guy. I don't like giving them the ball five yards closer to scoring. Going 75 yards is easier than going 80 yards. No it isn't a huge percentage difference in probability of scoring a touchdown, but for me there is a bit more to it.
It is also about field position. Giving my offense a short field.
While I'd love to think we'll always go three and out, stop them at the 31 and then get a 45 yard punt with a 10 yard return to have the ball at my 34 to start the drive; that is not always the case. These teams are so much closer to picking up a couple first downs and pinning me inside my own ten and I don't want to lose that field position.
That's just how my brain works. A six play drive with a 15 yard first down then 8 yard stop puts them on the 48. From the 48 they punting away, directional punting to take my return guy out of they're Paul Johnson they are just going for it. I. Do. Not. Want.
So that's how my defensive paranoia works on a daily basis.
With respect to strategy I wouldn't kick it away for a touchback every time. Coaches are stubborn on special teams. They have returns they like and a set up that they prefer and I think there is room to exploit the traditional kickoff set up because most coaches aren't willing to sacrifice good blocking for hands unless it is an onside kick situation. That means tight ends, fullbacks, linebacker types as the upbacks to produce the big return springing double teams and cross blocks.
And I love it because while the touchback option is there for me as somewhat of a sure thing a couple times a game I'd go the sky kick route.
Instead of giving someone the option of letting their high powered return man get a shot at trying to make something happen I'd love to put it in the hands of the big boys. Let them fair catch it from the 30 and back. Kick it into that tweener zone where they can't decide between backing up to catch it or the deep man sprinting to make the grab.
My coverage team has five yards less to run and we'll be gunning for them. Maybe we get a fumble. Maybe we get a fair catch. Maybe they don't field the kick and we just recover it. Maybe they catch it and we tackle them. Either way choas ensues and that means their coverage blocking scheme is disrupted and good things can happen for me.
Here at ITB we'll be watching how the change affects kickoffs, I do expect to see a few more sky kicks because the tradeoff is now a bit less, especially when the payoff can be so high for the coverage unit.