Now that we've all seen games where teams kick off from the 35 yard line, how do you think that's going to change the game? Here are some initial thoughts.
1. Special teams players on kickoffs are much less valuable than they used to be. If you read roster discussions, most guys are still talking about keeping so-and-so because he's great on special teams. Well, that's great, but I'm not sure it squares with the new reality. With kickoffs from the 35, even with Bailey kicking nearly every ball was not returnable, and two of the times Denver tried, they ended up short of the 20. The flip side is also true. Why focus on having a great kickoff returner if the other team can take him out of the game by kicking it deep into or out of the end zone? I think people talking about roster slots need to start taking this into account. Jesse Holley, in other words, needs to be able to catch the ball. Lonyae Miller isn't going to be worth more than Tashard Choice unless he can run better. This should effect 53-man rosters, and even game-day rosters.
2. Will teams start pooching the kicks high and to the goal line so you have to run it back, hoping to box you in short of the 20? This may contradict point #1, but I wonder if the best coverage teams will WANT you to run it out because they think they can trap you inside the 20 on a high kick that you can't touchback. Cowboys didn't do this against Denver. The ones Denver ran out short it could have taken a knee, as the ball was kicked into the end zone. But on two of the runbacks Denver was trapped inside its 15, and one other barely made it to the 20.
I think for the most part, teams will opt for the deep ball, taking away the chance for a big return and for guys to get hurt. And the result will be far less value for special teams guys who cover kicks and run them back.
I am no expert, but I think punting special teams is considerably different, both on the coverage and the run back side. So while the specialists will still be needed here, they may not be the same kind of specialists that you need for kickoffs and KO returns.
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