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Proposed rule change could make Patriots K Stephen Gostkowski even more valuable
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The Patriots kicker might not have been perfect on field goals and extra points, but he added value everywhere else.

New England Patriots K Stephen Gostkowski had a down year in 2016 as far as kicking was concerned. He missed five field goals and five extra points over the course of the season and showed poor consistency in kicking technique.

Of course Gostkowski connected on 90.1% of his kicking attempts in 2016 (field goals + extra points) which is not too far from his 91.9% conversion rate on kicks over the previous five seasons (field goals + 2015 extra points). But after an All Pro 2015 season, his 2016 performance was a letdown.

There are a few reasons for Gostkowski’s downturn season, but my favorite is that he had to change his kicking technique to account for the new kickoff rules. The league moved up the starting field position after a touchback, so the Patriots opted to try and pin return teams deep and force a return for bad field position.

Gostkowski pinned the Atlanta Falcons deep in Super Bowl LI and helped force overtime, but his contributions on kickoffs reasonably don’t receive the same magnifying glass as from field goals and extra points, even if head coach Bill Belichick highlights it during radio spots.

While Gostkowski’s ability on kickoffs might not fully offset his missed field goals, it’s certainly value added that needs to be taken into account. And now Washington has proposed a rule change that could make Gostkowski’s kickoff ability even more apparent.

2017 Playing Rules Proposals, #6. By Washington; Moves the line of scrimmage to the 20-yard line for any touchback where the free kick travels through the uprights.

That’s right. If a team kicks the ball through the uprights on a kickoff, then the opposing team is forced to start on the 20-yard line. This presents three opportunities for starting field position and adds value to special teams players and a facet of the game that has been eroding lately.

Teams can either start on the 25-yard line via touchback; they can start on the 20-yard line via the new rule proposal; or they can start wherever their return takes them.

I’m in favor of this rule. What about you?

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