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#pounditSaturday, August 8, 2020

NFL could implement entertaining alternative to on-side kick

NFL teams are in the process of reviewing potential rule changes for the 2020 season, and one of them that is said to be gaining momentum is an alternative to the on-side kick.

As Tom Pelissero of NFL Network notes, the alternative would give teams the option of maintaining possession rather than kicking off if they can convert a 4th-and-15 from their own 25-yard line. A turnover on downs would obviously result in tremendous field position for the other team, but the play would almost certainly have a higher success rate than the on-side kick.

It’s not unusual for radical changes to be proposed in the offseason and tested during the preseason, and many of them fizzle out. However, Pelissero reports that the on-side kick alternative is actually getting some support.

As it stands, teams have almost no chance of recovering an on-side kick. The conversion rate was over 20 percent a few years back, but the NFL changed kickoff rules to make it so players on the kicking team cannot get a running start before the ball is kicked. The goal with that change is to avoid violent collisions, but it has also made recovering an on-side kick far more difficult. The success rate of on-side kicks has fallen to around 5 percent since the new rule was implemented.

The XFL had some unique kickoff rules during its brief return this year, and those may have helped inspire the NFL to explore changes of their own.

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