The Jets raised more than a few eyebrows by joining 25 other teams in voting for the new kickoff rule -- a rule that moves kickoffs from the 30- to the 35-yard line. With a home-run hitter like Brad Smith, who came out publicly and stated he was disappointed with the new rule, the Jets figured to be anti-change. There will be more touchbacks and fewer opportunities for Smith.
GM Mike Tannenbaum, in an interview with 1050 ESPN radio, explained the reasoning, claiming player safety was the No. 1 factor for joining the majority. He said he's confident Smith still will be a weapon, but at the same time, he noted that Rex Ryan is a defensive coach and they like the idea of pinning the opposition at the 20 after touchbacks. That's what you call trying to spin it both ways.
Let's take a closer look at Smith's tendencies/performance as a kickoff returner last season (15 regular-season games):
Kickoffs to Smith: 58
Kickoffs that reached the end zone: 20
Of the 12 kickoffs he ran out of the end zone, here's a breakdown on how deep they traveled:
Minus-5, minus-5, minus-3, minus-2, minus-2, minus-2, minus-2. minus-1, minus-1, minus-1, zero, zero.
Now let's project by adding on five yards for the kickoff: How many of those 12 would become touchbacks? You'd have to say anywhere from three to seven. That should give you an idea of the new rule's impact; we're talking about five fewer returns, give or take, for Smith.
Here's an amazing stat on Smith: He averaged 34.7 yards per return, including an 86-yarder against the Vikings, on kickoffs that went into the end zone. That, at least, provides a silver lining for those who hate the new rule.
Now let's flip the script and examine how the new rule might affect PK Nick Folk, who doesn't have a strong leg. In fact, only nine percent of his kickoffs last season resulted in touchbacks, well below the league average (16 percent).
Total kickoffs: 81
Number in the end zone: 18
Touchbacks: 7 (5 in Denver's thin air)
Now let's add on five yards.
Total kickoffs: 81
Number in the end zone: 36