The Miami Dolphins and the rest of the NFL are acclimating to the new kick-off rules that will allow teams to start their drives at the 25 yard line when accepting a touchback.
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The NFL is looking to stop using kick-offs. Only two seasons ago they moved the kick-offs from the 30 to the 35 yard line and in doing so saw the NFL’s average returns drop to only 4 of every 10 kicks. It’s still not enough for the NFL.
The competition committee implemented the one year change at the last owners meeting and it will likely stick for the future. The NFL is trying to cut back on what they say is the most dangerous play in football. It may not have the desired intentions and the Dolphins are one team that may be preparing for the non-expected outcome.
It’s referred to as a “mortar” kick. A high in the air short kick-off that allows teams to race down the field and arrive as close to the point of reception as possible. The idea is that the longer hang-time, similar to a punt, would allow the defense to stop any return and keep that returner from reaching the 20 yard line.
According to Dolphins special teams coach Darren Rizzi, that is what they are preparing for.
Via Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald on Twitter, Beasley was present at the post-practice media session with Rizzi. He notes that the Dolphins have been working out kick-returners in practice.
"Adam Beasley @AdamHBeasley 38s39 seconds agoI mentioned that the Dolphins have given looks to like 9 KRs. Here’s why: Rizzi expects teams to kick shorter with new rule. More oppo’s."
Not everyone believes that teams will play the short kick game. Former Jets special teams coach Mike Westhoff believes that teams will only use the “mortar” style when a penalty is involved that would put the kick-off closer to the 50 yard line and thus less field for the defense to cover. Others also believe that teams will simply get the ball out of the endzone and leave it in the hands of their defenses.
Eventually the NFL will likely end the kick-offs altogether it’s just a matter of when. They do seem committed to making as many changes as possible to that portion of the game and those changes now appear to be coming a yearly clip.