Starting this season, the ball will be placed at the 25-yard line after touchbacks.
Of all the rules changes adopted this offseason -- even if it's just a one-year experiment -- the touchback tweak might wind up having the most impact on the game. Redskins coach Jay Gruden is trying to get out in front of it.
"Yeah, it's going to change a little bit. We're going to experiment," Gruden explained. "You know, we'll see what (kicker) Dustin (Hopkins) is good at. You know, we're going to try some of the pooch stuff and try to pin them back. You know, we don't want to just succumb to the 25-yard line."
Said Gruden: "He's got a powerful leg and one of the reasons he's here is because of his leg strength and kicking the ball off through the end zone. But he can get the height and pin people back to the one if we get them tackled inside the 20. That can be another great option for us."
As NFL Media's Judy Battista noted in March, teams in 2010 returned 80.1 percent of all kickoffs before they were moved from the 30- to the 35-yard line in 2011. The number dropped to 53.5 percent in 2011 and has declined ever since. Last season, just 41.1 percent of kickoffs were returned. Still, that means four out of 10 kickoffs are still being returned -- and the league still sees that as an opportunity for injuries.
Like many others, Gruden believes the NFL is giving "some thought" to phasing out kickoffs altogether.
"I'm sure they're probably discussing that possibility, and you know, that's something everybody's looking at due to the speed of the kickoff and the injuries that might happen on kickoffs, but it's been an exciting part of football for a long time," Gruden said. "It'd be unfortunate if it were to be dismissed from football in my opinion. But, my opinion doesn't really matter. I think it's an exciting part of the game and something that's very important to the game."