The NFL began an experiment in 2016, pushing the starting line following a kickoff from the 20- to 25-yard line as part of a stated effort to increase the number of touchbacks and decrease the number of player injuries.
Its experiment may continue.
At next week’s league owner meetings, the NFL Competition Committee will present the option to extend the one-year experiment to at least a two-year one. The committee was “pleased” with the 2016 results, said Dean Blandino, senior vice president of officiating.
“Touchbacks were up,” Blandino said in a media conference call Thursday. “The lowest rate of return in NFL history at 39.3 percent. We’re proposing that for another year to get another year’s worth of data and then evaluate that after the 2017 season.”
A second season will help determine if the 2016 touchback figures were a fluke. That possibility seems unlikely, considering each season provides a fairly amply sample size for kickoffs; there were more than 2,600 last year, not including onside kicks.
If the results repeat, the temporary rule may become a permanent one. This benefits offenses. The average starting position following a kickoff was the 24.8-yard line last season, a notable jump from 21.7 in 2015.