NFL owners are expected to vote on a side kick alternative on Thursday that would give teams the chance to pick up a 4th and 15th from their own 25-yard line to retain possession.
If that passes, it will be good news for the Eagles.
Because if the rule is gaining ground among many NFL teams, there is a reason the Eagles were the team that proposed this rule change.
This will give them an advantage for two main reasons:
1. The Eagles have an aggressive head coach ready to walk away from the convention
During his four years as head coach of the Eagles, Doug Pederson attempted more than 4th attempts than any other team. The Eagles have totaled 99 attempts for the 4th loss in four years; the next closest team has 91. The Eagles converted 52.5% of those fourth conversions down.
And in the four years with Pederson as head coach, the Eagles have also opted for 28 two-point conversions, a peak in the league. Pederson and the Eagles don’t care about conventional wisdom in the NFL; in fact, the organization believes that a lot of league-wide thinking is out of date.
All of Pederson’s aggressiveness is a combination of using analytics and associating it with his intuition based on the performance of his offense.
If the Eagles didn’t think analysis would tell them sometimes to opt for an on-kick alternative, why would they offer it?
2. They have a quarter with the possibility of extending the games and making difficult throws
Pederson and Carson Wentz have been together for four seasons so, first of all, Pederson should have a perfect understanding of the types of games to use with Wentz in these situations.
The great thing about Wentz, however, is its ability to create when a part fails. Taking games over 15 meters when the defense knows you have to win 15 meters is not easy. But with a quarterback like Wentz, there are many chances in the same game. His ability to scramble and save time will give his receivers a chance to open up on the field. And Wentz then has the strength of his arm to send the ball to him in a hurry.
During his career, Wentz has won first attempts on 6 of the 50 pass attempts in 3rd or 4th and -15 +, but these situations are different from this hypothesis. Certainly, we don’t have a ton of data to support the idea that it will be perfect in these situations. But use the eye test. He has a skill that should allow him to make these games.
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There are some important notes and details about this rule proposal that you should be aware of. They’re from NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero and they will determine how the teams will use this alternative if it passes.
• Teams can use the alternate kick twice in regulation and regardless of whether they lead, trail or are tied.
• But no overtime. You cannot decide to give up the kickoff in OT, trying to keep the ball to win the match.
• It is an unscheduled time but there is a 25 second game clock.
• If the offense turns, it is a first drop and the reader continues. If the defense stops them, they recover the ball in neutral.
• If a penalty occurs during or after a score (say there is unsportsmanlike conduct) and it had to be applied at kick-off, it can be applied at this time unscheduled. So, if there is an unsportsmanlike penalty, the hitting team may attempt a 4th and 15th in their own 40-yard line instead of their own 25.
• If an offensive penalty occurs during play, the kicking team may not change their mind and kick off. So if there is an offensive outfit, it could be 4th and 25th of their own 15.
• • •
We will see soon enough whether this proposal and some of the others on file are accepted this week. But in my mind, there is no reason to prevent this rule from passing if it is not the desire of certain teams to maintain the status quo. This rule would be fun.
And, at least for now, the Eagles could probably use it to their advantage.
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