Earlier this week, NFL owners approved a rule change that moves kickoffs to the 35-yard line. While most of the talk about this change has revolved around kick returners and coverage specialists, Dave Birkett raised an interesting point about what effect it could have on kickoff specialists.
The Detroit Lions haven't used a kickoff specialist, as Jason Hanson has always handled that duty. With Hanson's age potentially catching up to him and injuries bothering him, the idea has been raised that Dave Rayner could return as a kickoff specialist. Actually, Rayner himself threw that idea out there.
Kicker Dave Rayner raised an interesting issue when talking about his future with the Lions last month, saying it's possible he'd "stay on as a kickoff guy for a year and kind of see what happens."
With kickoffs being five yards up next season, there is less of a need for kickoff specialists if your main kicker can now get the ball to the end zone. That's not to say that Hanson couldn't before, but he hasn't been known as a guy that can kick the ball out of the end zone. With the extra five yards, however, reaching the end zone becomes much easier and could diminish the need for someone like Rayner to stick around as a kickoff specialist.
This, of course, all assumes that Hanson is healthy. If he's not then Rayner likely will be the kicker -- both for kickoffs and field goals. If Hanson is good to go, Rayner is likely to find a job elsewhere. While it would be nice if the Lions could hang on to him, it's not really necessary to keep both guys on the roster if Hanson is healthy. I know some think Rayner should just be made the full-time kicker, but you can't just kick (no pun intended) a guy like Hanson to the curve. When healthy, he has been nearly automatic, and if he is injury-free next season then he should be the guy.