Packers prepared to adapt to possible changes in onside kick rules
Green Bay Packers safety Adrian Amos has mixed feelings about proposed NFL rules changes regarding the onside kick.
The proposal by the Philadelphia Eagles is a modification of what was used in the short-lived American Alliance of Football (AAF) spring league, in which teams that were trailing were given the option of converting a fourth-and-12 play in lieu of an onside kick.
The Eagles’ proposal is that a team could choose to take a shot at converting a first down on a fourth-and-15 play from their own 25-yard line. Teams could do it only twice per game but could also attempt it when they were leading, tied or trailing.
A drawback for defenses is that they would have to be ready to mentally and physically regroup after having just come off the field.
“I think it’ll change the game for sure,” Amos said Wednesday in a Zoom meeting with the media. “I don’t know whether it’s good or bad because if we have the ball, I like our chances better with the rule. If it happens, we’ll get into those situations and see how it plays out.”
Then he smiled.
“It seems fun for Madden, though,” he said. “You’re never out of the game in Madden if that’s the case.”
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All proposals must be approved by 75 percent of the owners (24) to be adopted. The owners reportedly will discuss and possibly vote on the proposal Thursday.
According to NFL Research, teams recovered eight of 63 (12.7%) onside kick attempts in 2019. Pro-Football-Reference.com’s play finder said teams went 2-for-7 (28.6%) on fourth-and-15.
Chicago and Philadelphia were the only teams to get a first down.
“I’m not going to lie to you, on our game sheet we really don’t have that fourth-and-15 section right now,” Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said with a laugh during a Zoom meeting last week. “But with the changes coming out, it might be something we have to throw in there and investigate and look at. It’s a very unique situation.”
The onside kick rule was changed in 2018 to prevent the kicking team from getting a running head start. Since then, only 12 out of 115 onside kick attempts have been recovered (10.4%).
NFL.com said the league’s research only dates to 1992, and that 21.2% of onside kicks had been recovered from 1992-2017.
“My initial reaction as a special-teams person is anytime you take away from special teams, you never want that to happen,” Packers special teams coordinator Shawn Mennenga said. “But we have to adapt. Whatever the league decides, we’ll be ready to go. I know there’ll be some tweaks to everything and there’ll have to be some things worked out, depending on how it all unfolds, but we’ll be ready to go with whatever happens.”
To widen the lens a bit and further illustrate how difficult it is to convert from beyond 10 yards on a single fourth-down play, pro-football-reference looked at 86 plays of 10 yards or longer on fourth down and calculated a conversion rate of 25.5% (22 of 86).
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Seven of the 15 teams who attempted those fourth-down plays converted just twice from 10 yards or longer. The remaining teams all made one first down, including the Packers when Aaron Rodgers hit Geronimo Allison for a 15-yard gain in New York against the Giants.
“It’ll definitely be interesting to see what we think we can do and dial up some fun creative things,” Hackett said.