With kickoffs moved from the 30-yard line to the 35, more touchbacks are a certainty in the NFL this season. Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio wants fans to understand that also means lower-scoring games.
“If you back up the offense and start them on the 20, you’re going to reduce the chances of scoring,” Del Rio said on ESPN Radio. “So I think what’s going to happen is when they get done looking at this year they’re going to say, ‘Boy, scoring dropped. Wow. I wonder what caused that.’ Well, I think kickoffs are going to play a part in that.”
Del Rio is almost certainly right: There will be more touchbacks and fewer returned kickoffs, which means not only fewer return touchdowns but also fewer long returns that set up the offense in good field position. So that will make for less interesting games, unless you find touchbacks interesting.
“You’re going to watch the kicking team line up and then you’ll watch the offense get the ball at the 20,” Del Rio said. “That’s what’s going to happen the majority of the time. Unless you get a real strong breeze or something where the ball can’t go deep enough to not bring it out, you’re going to see a tremendous amount of balls staying in the end zone or kicked through the end zone, and the ball’s going to stay at the 20.”
The Jaguars voted against the rule change.
“We were a ‘no’ team,” Del Rio said. “We did not like the rule. It passed and so we’ll deal with it. I think what you’ll see is that element of the game is really not a big part of it.”