NFL owners got together on Wednesday and voted on a number of issues leading up to the 2021 season. The one that has captured the most headlines centers around the league loosening its restrictions on the jersey numbers players can wear, but that's not all the owners passed into law. Another relates to the onside kick. While the league tabled the Eagles' proposal of a fourth-and-15 alternative to an onside kick, there has been a tweak to the play that will be experimented on this year.
Under this new rule that has been approved by the owners, the receiving team will be able to have no more than nine players lined up in the "setup zone," which is the area between 10 and 25 yards of the kickoff spot. In the past, teams routinely put 10 or 11 players in the setup zone in anticipation of the opponent opting for an onside kick. When the league changed the kickoff rules and eliminated a running start on kickoffs, however, the onside kick success rate fell. With fewer players now able to go after the ball, the theory is that onside kicks will have a better chance of being recovered by the kicking team.
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"This rule limits the number of guys the receiving team can put up in the box to nine," Steelers president Art Roony II said of the change on Wednesday. "It's only passed for one year, and so we'll see if it makes any difference. But with some of the recent rules changes that had been made, the percentage of onside kicks recovered by the kicking team has really dropped. This is an effort to provide a little better opportunity for the kicking team to recover."
As Roony noted, this rule is in place for just the 2021 season, which essentially means this year will be a trial run. If everyone involved likes the new rule, there will likely be a vote to permanently implement it next year. If it turns out to not work as initially hoped, they can elect to scrap it prior to the 2022 season. On that same token, the Eagles could bring back their fourth-and-15 proposal next year as well if they so choose.