Are the LA Rams completely screwed by this new NFL rule?

LA Rams Chase Blackburn
LA Rams Chase Blackburn / Thearon W. Henderson/GettyImages

You have to feel a bit sorry for the LA Rams new Special Teams Coordinator, Chase Blackburn. After all, the LA Rams did him no favors after hiring him by allowing all special team specialist players to sign elsewhere. Add to that the fact that the Rams free agency was practically shut down this season, extending only a handful of players to the least expensive NFL contracts.

No, Chase Blackburn could not count on his new team to pad the Rams roster with veteran free agents. To get the players that he wanted, Blackburn would have to scout and recruit the players he wanted. Perhaps that's the way he likes it.

In any case, he scouted the punter who the Rams eventually drafted, punter Ethan Evans, out of Wingate. After the 2023 NFL Draft, the Rams signed Oklahoma State kicker Tanner Brown and North Carolina State kicker Christopher Dunn. But the Rams did not seem to directly address the role of kickoff or punt returner. Perhaps there was a good reason for that?

Are the LA Rams completely screwed by the latest NFL rule change?

Today, on Tuesday, May 23, 2023, the NFL approved the second rule change that we discussed yesterday. If you need the full recap, you can click this link here and read up on the rule change and what that could mean to the LA Rams. In short, the NFL has changed the rules for touchbacks on punts, and for kickoff returns.

So the question is, are the LA Rams completely screwed by the latest NFL rule change? For special teams coordinator Chase Blackburn, this is just one more challenge to overcome.

Well, the Rams special teams strategy will certainly be impacted. After all, the Rams will need to rethink their kickoff and punt strategy. And there will be plenty of opportunity for this team to debate how to proceed in terms of the running game.

When the Rams punt or kickoff

The LA Rams punting unit will be under more pressure to keep the football out of the end zone. In the past, touchbacks resulted in the football being spotted at the 20 yard line. Now, the Rams punting unit will face the ball coming out to the 25 yards line.

On kickoffs, any short kicks which are signaled for a fair catch inside the 25-yard line will be spotted at the 25-yard line. So the Rams kicking team has no incentive to kick the ball short. The only logical strategy will be to boom the kickoff into the endzone and simply let the opposing offense take over at the 25-yard line. In fact, this could give the Rams an advantage as the team's punter, Ethan Evans, has a booming leg that can kick off a tee as well.

When the Rams return punts or kickoffs?

The rules for returning a punt remains unchanged with one exception. Touchbacks will now result in the ball being spotted at the 25 yard line. That places all the pressure on the punting unit, and the Rams punt return team will be given a boost.

Where it gets interesting is the part where a fair catch inside the 25 yard line will be spotted at the 25 yard line. I can think of several occasions when the Rams attempted a kickoff return and were stopped short of the 25 yard line. Now, with the Rams looking for new return specialists, does this new rule help or hurt that effort?

If the Rams had a secret weapon, some return specialist who was all set to blaze the NFL this season, then the Rams may be adversely impacted by this new rule change. But with no evidence of the Rams' return unit being set, this could work to the Rams' advantage in the end. Still, you have to be concerned if ST Coordinator Chase Blackburn opposed this rule, how might this adversely impact the Rams in 2023?

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The latest NFL rule change essentially creates an almost automatic spot at the 25 yard line for offenses after an opponent's score. Now the question is: How long will the NFL keep the kickoff in the game?