One of the big rule changes from the owners this year affects kickoffs in a major way, moving all kickoffs from the 30 to the 35 yard line. Evidently the change was made to create less action on kickoffs, where it seems a large portion of injuries occur. Of course like all rule changes, there's much more to it than that, and some of the effects of this change will likely benefit the 2011 Packers in a big way, under the assumption there is a season to be played.It's no shock to anyone that the Packers were dreadful on Special Teams during the 2010 season, and many Pack fans lamented that if anything would derail the Super Bowl Party Train, it would be an abysmal performance from that unit. The Packers managed to keep the unit under control though, and despite allowing a few big run backs during their six game winning streak at season's end, they managed to play well enough to bring the Lombardi trophy home. Still, there are several factors that need to go right in order to repeat, and the chances of hitting all the right buttons are endangered by the faulty ST unit once again.
However with this new rule change in place, the Packers may have found the safety blanket they need. By moving the kickoff up five yards, teams with power kickers will be rewarded with a greater quantity of touchbacks. Obviously this benefits the team in two ones. One: This nullifies returns completely, and in a division with Devin Hester, it's invaluable to shut down kick returners. Two: It gives the team field position at the twenty, which is about as good as you can ask for. With the Packers ever-strengthening defense, making the opposition travel eighty yards every drive just gives that defense more chances to stop them.
Mason Crosby will, I expect, want to put as many kickoffs into the end zone as possible this year. With the extra five yards, the Packers can almost completely nullify their poor Special Teams unit with good performances from Crosby, and of course Tim Masthay on punts. No matter how bad the tackling and kick coverage is, if these two kickers can have strong and consistent seasons in 2011, there may be little reason to fear kicking plays any longer