Eagles propose alternative to onside kick and other rule changes


Of the seven team-proposed playing rule changes for the 2020 NFL season, four of them are coming from the Eagles. 

The most interesting of the bunch is a proposal that would give teams an alternative to onside kicks that would let them keep the ball. The Eagles are proposing that teams need to convert a 4th-and-15 from the kicking team’s 25-yard line. 

The NFL’s competition committee will also propose rule changes, but there are seven proposed changes from NFL teams. 

Here’s a full list of the proposed rule changes from teams:  

1. By Philadelphia; to amend Rule 12, Section 2, Article 7, to modify the blindside block rule to prevent unnecessary fouls.

2. By Philadelphia; to amend Rule 15, Section 2, to make permanent the expansion of automatic replay reviews to include scoring plays and turnovers negated by a foul, and any successful or unsuccessful Try attempt.

3. By Philadelphia; to amend Rule 6, Section 1, Article 1, to provide an alternative to the onside kick that would allow a team who is trailing in the game an opportunity to maintain possession of the ball after scoring (4th and 15 from the kicking team’s 25-yard line).

4. By Philadelphia; to amend Rule 16, Section 1, to restore preseason and regular season overtime to 15 minutes and implement rules to minimize the impact of the overtime coin toss.

5. By Miami; to amend Rule 4, Section 3, Article 2, to provide the option to the defense for the game clock to start on the referee’s signal if the defense declines an offensive penalty that occurs late in either half.

6. By Baltimore and Los Angeles Chargers; to amend Rule 19, Section 2, to add a “booth umpire” as an eighth game official to the officiating crew.

7. By Baltimore and Los Angeles Chargers; to amend Rule 19, Section 2, to add a Senior Technology Advisor to the Referee to assist the officiating crew. 

These proposals and the others — if they aren’t withdrawn — will be voted on later this month in West Palm Beach, Florida, at the NFL’s annual meetings. 

The most interesting rule proposals from the Eagles are Nos. 3 and 4. With No. 4, overtime is currently 10 minutes in the regular season, so this would push it back to 15 minutes, something the Eagles have wanted for a while now. 

As for Rule No. 3, it’s an interesting proposal and the most exciting of the bunch. It would be a way for teams that are trailing to stay on the field without an onside kick. A similar proposal was shot down last year.

According to NFL research, 21.2% of onside kicks were recovered from 1992-2017. But in the last two years, that rate has dropped drastically thanks to new safety rules. During the 2019 season, the Washington Post reported that the NFL was going to revisit the proposal after the season.

To put it into context, NFL teams faced a 3rd- or 4th-and-15 a total of 663 times (excluding punts) in 2019. Of those 663, 75 plays resulted in a first down — 11.3%. The Eagles converted on 3 of 20 such plays in 2019. 

But it’s also fair to realize the game wasn’t on the line for most of those plays, so the percentage isn’t necessarily indicative of what it would be in this type of onside kick situation. If nothing else, it’s an exciting proposal. 

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