Giants President and Owner John Mara is on the NFL’s Competition Committee. At the Owners Meetings this week, the NFL owners voted for some significant changes to the game.

Hybrid kickoffs and hip-drop tackles are outlawed, and the trade deadline gets moved back a week.

Let’s take a look.

Hybrid Kickoffs

I don’t know about you, but I found kickoffs to be a boring waste of a play since kickers have gotten so good at kicking the ball out of the endzone. Well, the NFL is trying to make it exciting again. As John Mara stated in interviews at the meetings, “We don’t want ceremonial plays in the game.”  He cited Super Bowl LVIII, where there were 13 kickoffs that were all touchbacks. The rule adopts the hybrid kickoffs used by the XFL last year. Here’s how it works:

Kickers will kick off from their own 35-yard line. The 10 other players from the kicking team will line up on the opposing team’s 40-yard line. The receiving team must have nine players line up five yards away on the 35-yard line. Two returners will be stationed in a “landing zone” from the 20-yard line to the end zone. This eliminates the 40-yard dash by the kickoff team. None of the players on either line can move until the ball lands in the landing zone or is touched by the returners. If the ball is downed in the endzone or goes out of bounds, the touchbacks are now moved to the 30-yard line. The NFL hopes this puts action back into kickoffs and adds value to special teams play. And yes, teams will still have the opportunity to try a traditional onside kick up to twice, but only in the fourth quarter. Only two onside kicks were attempted in 2023.  

Hip-Drop Tackles are Banned

The NFL stated that 21.8% of all hip-drop tackles in 2023 led to injuries. This is supposedly NOT a tackling technique taught by coaches…it just happens when a defender is trying to stop the momentum of a ball carrier and make a tackle. NFL Insider Tom Pelissero posted this video the NFL used to show hip-drop tackles. The infraction will carry a penalty of 15 yards from the spot of the foul and an automatic first down. Most players, coaches, and officials believe this will be difficult to enforce. Here’s how the rule is written: 

ARTICLE 18. HIP-DROP TACKLE. It is a foul if a player uses the following technique to bring a runner to the ground:

(a) grabs the runner with both hands or wraps the runner with both arms and

(b) unweights himself by swiveling and dropping his hips and/or lower body, landing on and trapping the runner’s leg(s) at or below the knee.

It’s natural for a defensive player to grab a player and just try to go down in making a tackle. Sometimes, the player’s legs get caught underneath the defender. Tony Dungee posted his concerns with the new rule via his account. As a former player and coach, he believes this rule could bring about more diving at players’ legs, which in itself could cause more harm to players. This is a controversial rule change.  

Expanded Use of Replay

In a good move, the NFL has expanded the use of replay. That now includes ruling that a quarterback was down or out of bounds. Whether or not the play clock expired before the snap can also now be reviewed. In addition, a coach is awarded a third challenge if he’s successful on one of his two challenges. It used to be the coach had to be successful on both challenges to get a third challenge.

Trade Deadline

Finally, the NFL has moved the trade deadline back one week to the Tuesday after Week 9 games. This puts the deadline just over halfway through the season.  

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