NFL 2023

During the 2024 season, kickers will continue to kick from the 35-yard line, but the other 10 players on the kickoff team will line up at the receiving team’s 40-yard line. At least nine members of the return team will line up in a “setup zone” between the 35- and 30-yard lines. Up to two returners can line up in a “landing zone” between the goal line and the 20-yard line.
No one other than the kicker and returner(s) can move until the ball hits the ground or hits a player inside the landing zone. Touchbacks will be marked at the 30-yard line, and no fair catches will be allowed. In the event a team wants to attempt an onside kick, it will have to inform officials of its intent and would then be allowed to use the NFL’s traditional formation. No surprise onside kicks will be allowed.

Basically they’re trying to get of the entire kickoff team of 250+ pound guys getting a 40-yard full sprint and then slamming into people.

The elimination of the surprise onside kick is probably the biggest loss. That has swung Super Bowls.

So, a couple of interesting TV things were announced today:

  1. The NFL game in Brazil, previously announced for the Friday night of opening weekend, will either be the Packers or the Browns playing the Eagles (Philly was already known.) And if you hated the Peacock playoff game last year, guess who will broadcast the game? Yep, Peacock.

  2. There will be two games on Christmas this year, but Christmas is on Wednesday in 2024. The teams will all play on the previous Saturday, giving them the same number of full rest days that Sunday/Thursday teams get. Interestingly, Goodell has been on record that this would never happen.

It’s a Christmas Miracle! /s

Also

The hip-drop tackle thing seems to me to be common sense. I would argue it is the moral equivalent of the horsecollar tack, just low instead of high.

In the video showing the types of tackles that are now banned, the NFL included a hip drop tackle of Geno Smith last year that upset both Pete Carroll and Geno, especially as Geno was going out of bounds. Geno came away clearly hurt and they complained to the league, who told them that it wasn’t considered a hip drop tackle and no fines would be issued.

Quite often, the hip-drop is also a horsecollar. I used to think that using gravity was part of a horsecollar

The kickoff change makes having a good return man an absolute must now. With no fair catch we’re going to see not just a lot more returners break free for TDs but also a lot more returners turn the ball over on flubbed catches or fumbles on the return. With no more fair catch we could see a 14 point swing more often as a team that just gave up a score then flubs the return as well.

While the rules wording itself is a bit confusing, as someone who watched Hall of Famer Devin Hester for his entire career, I definitely missed the opportunity for the exciting returns.

I’m cautiously optimistic. I understood, but hated, the recent rules on kickoffs.

I do wish they would have voted on the 4th and 20 at your own 20 onside kick rule. It would make close games even more dangerous with the onside kick, because the Onside kick is basically impossible, and will be even more so now that you can’t do a fake kickoff to onside kick if the other team isn’t prepared. (apparently the fake onside was only done twice in 2023)

It does sound like they will probably consider onside kick alternatives in the future, but 4th and 20 from your own 20 seems like a pretty fair risk/reward situation for a kickoff alternative. I would expect that a 4th and 20 play is probably more likely to convert than 5%, but it is probably only twice as likely. You’ll probably get like 10-15 yards a lot of the time, and that puts the opposing offense right in FG range.

So how DO you do an onside kick with the new formations?

You have to declare an onside kick is going to happen and everyone lines up like they use to for just that type of play.

Yeah, I would say it ruins the surprise, but the article notes that only 2 “surprise” onside kicks were attempted in 2023.

So, not really going to change much. I do think that they should change up the onside kick rules though, as having it completely different than the new normal kickoff is weird, and it now is its own special play anyway, so it isn’t like changing it now would make it any weirder going forward, as it is now going to be a very different play than the kickoff.

I’m not sure a good return man looks exactly like it used to.

Not so sure about this, when they will be 20+ yards away and can’t get a running start. Fumbles sure.

Returners will now be able to get a running start. I’m not sure short area agility matters as much now as straight line speed.

Or conversely, maybe slower guys who are tough to tackle once they get going will suddenly be great returners.

I don’t think teams will try to kick short, because they don’t want to risk the ball getting placed at the 40.

With no one allowed to move until the ball is touched, there will be plenty of time to retrieve a muffed kickoff. As for fumbles - I’d guess about the same rate as other open-field situations. Maybe fewer, even - when I picture a receiver fumbling it seems they are likely to be being tackled from behind rather than head-on.

Something I am idly musing on: should the Seahawks look to trade DK Metcalf?

My view is that the Seahawks are much closer to bottoming out than they are to contending. They have needs up and down the roster, many players on expiring contracts, and a real lack of blue-chip talent. There are IMO zero all-pro caliber players on the team right now, though a few guys have potential (Spoon, maybe Cross, maybe JSN).

DK Metcalf has two years left on his contract, with cap hits of $24.5 and $29.5 million respectively. From my perspective he’s never lived up to his potential: he’s super fast and that’s valuable in terms of the scheme (it forces defenses to respect his speed & adjust coverages). But his route running is OK at best, he doesn’t have the best hands, and despite his incredible physical gifts and frame he’s actually kind of soft; he doesn’t use his body well and he’s never been good at contested catches. I view him as a guy who’s not top ten at his position; maybe top fifteen and at least in 2024 advanced stats (with all their drawbacks) bear that out. For receivers with 50+ targets he ranks 12th in DYAR and 20th in DVOA.

The receiver market has been pretty heavily inflated in recent years and is only set to go higher with extension to Justin Jefferson, Ja’Marr Chase, and Brandon Aiyuk pending. It’s not inconceivable to me that these guys all end up at higher than $30mm APY, which makes me think Metcalf and his agent would target $30mm and I don’t think he’s remotely worth that price (frankly I do not think he’s worth it at the $25mm cap hit this year, but…)

If they could get a first round pick for him to me that seems like a no brainer, but I also think nobody is crazy enough to offer that. I’d also do the deal for a second. For a third round pick I become ambivalent: that’s not great compensation, but I also don’t know that I want to pay premium money for a receiver who is just good.

There is absolutely no point in trading DK Metcalf. You do that and it only saves you $1.5 million in cap space, and then you have to find a replacement for him.

Meanwhile, KC just won a Super Bowl with a garbage WR room. And it’s WR rich draft. No one is going to trade a 1st for an expensive WR that they have to sign a new deal with in a year.

To be clear: I don’t think you should trade him as a cap casualty; it’s more a question of what an extension after 2024 looks like & if you really want him at that price. Like if you can do (say) a two year extension for $55 million then yeah, that’s a very reasonable deal for him. OTOH if he’s going to take a stand for something like (say) three years $90mm? I think it’s very hard to value him in that fashion.

Bills trading Stefon Diggs to the Texans for draft picks
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Wow.

He really was disgruntled.