In 2010, Josh Scobee hit a 59 yard field goal as time expired to beat the Colts. There's no question that he's a talented kicker. A couple of the potential rules changes in 2011 would move the kickoff spot from the 30 yard line to the 35, and touchbacks would be moved out to the 25 instead of the 20. Is that enough? Not quite. Blocking wedges would be illegal as well. At first glance, it looks like the kicking teams are at a disadvantage, but that may not be true. Kickers in the NFL are very talented, and they have savvy coaches.
One of those rules clearly favors the kicking team. The lack of a wedge makes it more likely for a return man to just take a knee when he fields the ball in the end zone. The clear intention of these rules is to have more touchbacks and less returns. The idea of taking out the wedge is to limit injuries on returns, but now, return men will be more vulnerable than ever before.
We'll tackle the two rules concerning where the ball is placed at the same time. By moving the ball forward 5 yards, the coverage team has less distance to cover between them and the return man. Again, it encourages touchbacks. I should note that no player other than the kicker would be able to line up more than five yards behind the 35. This would eliminate the players sprinting full speed as the ball is kicked off, but how long does it really take for them to get up to full speed?
Finally, touchbacks would be moved to the 25 yard line. I don't like it, but it really shouldn't have a huge impact on the game. All these rules assume that returners will field more kicks in the end zone, but is that really true? Kickers are very talented, and I think they'll be trying to drop the ball on the goal line. Without a wedge, kick returners shouldn't be getting by the 20 yard line, especially with the 5 yard head start the coverage team has.
This may be especially true with teams like the Jaguars. The Jags cover kicks as well, if not better than, every team in the NFL. I don't know about you, but I think the Jags can get the tackle before the twenty yard line. And as for injuries, we may see less as a result of wedge-busting, but returners may get injured more often. It's hard to predict what will happen with these new rules, but I have a feeling they won't have the intended effect.