The NFL is considering a rule change that would move kickoffs up to the 35 and touchbacks up to the 25 in an effort to limit the number of injuries we see on kickoffs. The main issue is player safety, so it’s nice to see the league considering this (STORY). How could this rule affect the Saints?
My personal vibe is that I’m all for it. While very few starters play on the kickoff units, we’re still talking about valuable backup players that get banged up. The Saints really struggled with injuries this past year, including Reggie Bush breaking his leg specifically on a return situation. Those guys are important for depth. In addition, the Saints’ cover units in general have struggled consistently in the Sean Payton era. Given Thomas Morstead’s leg, I’m in favor of any rule that makes it all the much easier for him to nullify a weapon another team may have. While Courtney Roby is a solid return man, I feel like limiting the other team’s returner trumps promoting Roby’s chances at success. We don’t need explosive returns because our offense is good enough to score without them. Similarly, our defense is the weaker of our two units so this rule would make their job easier because we’d see more touchbacks. For the Saints this is a no brainer: this rule would be a positive change, especially since Morstead could easily get a touchback every time he kicked the ball if it was from 5 yards closer to the endzone.
For a team like the Chicago Bears, this could be deadly. While their offense has improved, they rely almost too much on Devin Hester for good field position. Guys like Leon Washington and Josh Cribbs, both who play huge parts in their team’s success, could see their roles slightly limited by this kind of rule change. So why not? Personally I love it. I feel like it makes less complete teams with standout return games weaker, while making more complete teams with decent return games stronger. The way it should be. That said, it’s pretty clear to me that teams like the Bears, Seahawks and Browns will oppose this new rule proposal pretty strongly.