Well, it’s official: The NFL has announced that extra points will be kicked from the 15-yard line in 2015, with two-point conversions remaining at the 2-yard line. The new rule also gives defenses the opportunity to block extra points and score two points on returns.
This rule change – welcomed by some, criticized by others – will undoubtedly make kickers’ lives a little bit harder.
Key words being “little bit.”
“It’s not going to change that much for kickers,” 14-year NFL kicker Jay Feely said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “It’s really not – not until late in the season and (there’s) cold weather and nasty conditions. That’s when it’s going to be difficult. But guys made 93 percent of the extra points last year when it was moved back, so you’re looking at something very similar to what we’ve seen before. It’s not going to change a whole lot. It will change for the offensive linemen, though.”
How so, you ask? Pull up a chair.
“You have 60 to 80 plays a year per team – depending on how good your offense is – where you’re kicking an extra point,” Feely began. “Previously, because it was a foregone conclusion (that a kicker would make the extra point), coaches would play a safe defense. You couldn’t return the kicks anyway, so there was no carrot there dangling to try and score points even if you did block it – other than stopping a point. And it was 99.9 percent (successful). So they just played safe defense and they didn’t rush hard.
“Now you’re going to have defensive coordinators bringing the house and coming hard and trying to create a situation much like field goals where you can block the kick and return it for points and stop points,” Feely continued. “And you can affect the kicker because it’s a longer kick. Those guys are in precarious situations. Their bodies are exposed – their knees, their head, their neck – because of the techniques that are demanded on that play, and they hate blocking on field goals. And now you’ve added 70 plays a year.
“Think about a team who is in the playoff hunt and their left tackle is in there blocking like they normally do and they get a knee blown out. That changes the entire complexion of a team. You lose your tackle on a play that, I don’t see a tangible benefit to the change.”
To be fair, though, a left tackle could blow his knee out at any time. Shouldn’t the NFL do whatever it can to ensure that fans see all-out effort on every single play?
“But every decision the NFL has made over the last five years has been predicated on player safety,” Feely countered. “They changed the hitting surface and where you hit and shrunk that and tried to move it up to the waist level and take it away from the head and eliminate heads in general from tackling. They changed kickoffs and basically eliminated kickoff returns – even though that’s one of the most exciting plays in the game – specifically for player safety. So if you’re making decisions for player safety – you’re taking out plays that are immensely exciting – then why are you changing something that really has no benefit, that really doesn’t do anything to the game (except create) an adverse situation for player safety where guys are going to get injured more often?”