New kickoff rule present plenty of opportunities for creativity, strategy

Even if the current change to the kickoff amounts to a half-measure toward the elimination of the kickoff altogether, teams will have to figure out how to implement the new formation in a way that enhances the overriding effort to win, for as long as the new formation is in place. And coaches already have begun to brainstorm regarding the opportunities created by an alignment aimed at reducing injuries.

I think, in general, it’s going to change a lot, just fundamentally and from a scheme standpoint, what the teams are allowed to do, obviously the alignments, Lions coach Matt Patricia recently said, via Justin Rogers of the Detroit News. There’s certainly some different, we’ll call them, some dangers that are going to show up that I think all of them aren’t really identified yet until all the coaches kind of put their heads together and say, ‘Hey this is a way for us to attack here,’ or ‘There might be an area here we could go after.’

Some teams may decide to try to figure out how to pin the opponent deep, with quick, athletic players who can slip past the blockers and converge on the returner and the two men who will be back there to block for him. Some teams may decide to try to drop a quasi-onside kick between the eight who must be within 15 yards of the kickoff point and the three who are lined up deeper. Plenty of other possible approaches can be attempted, with sky kicks, squib kicks, line drives, positional kicks, or whatever kind of strange hops and spins that a kicker can put on the ball.

If nothing else, it will make a play that was happening less and less a little more interesting. And it could be wise to enjoy it while it lasts, because it’s still very possible that the kickoff will end up becoming one less way that the foot will be used in football.

I’m just trying to grasp everything, Mariota said Tuesday. You don’t want to be opinionated on something that you have never run. I just try to go out there and execute, and do what they’re asking me to do. When we come back and we have to determine some of these things, and determine what we like and what we don’t like, I’ll definitely express my opinion.

That’s exactly what LaFleur expects, even if he’s learning that getting the polite Mariota to speak up isn’t always easy.

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