Last night on ESPN, Jon Gruden made the case that the new kickoff rule (kickoffs having moved up to the 35 from the 30) wasn't great for the game. He called the kickoff "the most exciting play in the game," and if more of them end with a fellow on his knees, surrendering, then where's the fun in that?
If last night is any indication (and it's a small sample size, I grant you), we can expect the percentage of kickoffs to nearly double. Last year, 16 percent of kickoffs ended in touchbacks. Last night, 16 out of 51 kickoffs were kneeled on, for a total of 31.4%.
It wasn't all bad, though. Bryan Walters of the Chargers took one to the house, and Deji Karim of the Jaguars ripped off this beauty down to the Patriots 18.
It didn't feel much different, though. As I watched games, I never thought to myself, "Well, this seems boring, because we have too many touchbacks." But that's just me, and I don't necessarily agree with This Guy Gruden when he says that the kickoff is the most exciting play in a given game.
I guess it depended on which game you were watching, though. In the Arizona/Oakland game, only one kick of 11 went for a touchback. In the Baltimore/Philadelphia contest, there were seven kicks, with six of them touched back.
My guess is that we're going to see the percentage climb even higher as we get into the regular season. Last night gave us a bunch of kickers who won't be an opening day rosters, and we also saw a lot of kicks taken out of the endzone by young guys who need to make an impression.
They're just touchbacks. It's part of our new football reality. If it helps keep players safe, then in the end, it's a small sacrifice.