The NFL preseason began Thursday, and I can't tell you how exciting it was just to look at some box scores again. On Friday night, I made sure I tuned in to FOX's first preseason telecast, featuring the Tampa Bay Buccaneers against the Kansas City Chiefs. I was reminded of how boring it is to watch another team's preseason game. Even if a team is doing well, that thought in the back of your head that it doesn't count toward the standings is planted firmly. When the Browns play Saturday night, I'll be glued to the television up until the third-stringers' final snap of the game.
One of my reasons for tuning into the FOX game was that I wanted a sneak peak at how two of the league's major rule changes -- the replay review of some scoring plays and the change in the distance of kickoffs -- would turn out.
On the Buccaneers' first touchdown of the game, quarterback Josh Freeman rolled to the left and scrambled for a touchdown. He was close to the sideline as he got in, but the score seemed obvious. I don't think a single head coach would challenge that play, ever, unless it was out of desperation in the fourth quarter or something. The officials upstairs paged the officials to hold on though, and it felt a little ridiculous to have the action stalled.
There will be some cases where the new replay review rule is beneficial, but there are other times where it'll be annoying, at least until we get used to it. Hopefully the officials go back and look at certain plays that were unnecessary to review during the preseason. Allow this to be a learning experience for everyone involved so they can keep the action flowing and fans entertained.
Not every play will call for a delayed review. Another score later in the game, which was slightly more obvious, led right into the extra point, just like normal.
When it came to kickoffs in the game, it felt like I was watching the "No Fun League." Is there anything more pointless than seeing kickoffs sail to the back of the end zone while returners take a knee? The one time a guy brought the ball out, they were drilled around the 5-yard line.
Based on the statistics, kickoffs are already up significantly, and starting field position is down by about three yards. The game I was watching was an example of one that had more touchbacks than others, but it is something that will again take mental adjustment. I know certain kickers were able to boom touchbacks under the old rule, but when only a few players can do it consistently, it feels more unique. When I could go out there and do it (kidding), it seems less special and takes the joy out of hoping you see your guys get a big return.
Not everyone struggled under the new kickoff rule though:
The kickoff rule came out a little differently than expected. Sure, touchbacks were rampant, but there were also some long kickoff returns. Bryan Walters of the Chargers had a 103-yard return for a touchdown. Deji Karim of the Jaguars had an 84-yard return.
Weather, kickers, and strategy will all play a role in the new rule. When we're in the thick of the regular season though, I just hope it's not an issue that takes away from the game too much.
Side note: thanks to Bernie19Kosar, who covered my duties of answering Acme Packing Company's questions, as I was bogged down by my computer issues to get around to it myself.