Belichek has said, essentially, that the NFL is trying to eliminate the kickoff with the new rule that moves the kickoff 5 yards up. By saying that he seems to be implying that he expects to just have Gostkowski kick the ball through the end zone every time. He is implying that every team will just kick the ball through the end zone every time. He is signalling to every team to not focus on their return games, but to focus on offense and defense.
But I think Belichek is sending a false implication. I think he will continue to focus on all three phases of the game, including special teams, including kickoffs.
Gostkowski has not yet kickoff in the preseason. I don't think the patriots are just trying to save his leg. I think Gostkowski has been practicing high, arching kickoffs with a lot of hang time, that land about the 15 - 20 yard line. High arching kickoffs that allow the coverage team to be in the returners face just as he catches the ball. If returners get sick of getting hit just as they catch the ball, fine, the can call fair catch and the team can start on the 20 yard line or so. That is still behind the 25 yard line where teams will start if there opponent just kicks the ball throuhg the end zone. I think Belichek does not want his strategy revealed before the season.
I think Belichek is wary of kickoffs returned for touchdown, but if ever other team is kicking the ball through the end zone, how much practice is any returner going to get? I think Belichek is optimistic that high, arching kickoffs that returners are forced to field will result in fumbles and will result in turnovers.
For the past few drafts, Belichek has shown a desire to have strong special teams, by drafting Chung, McCourty. Blah, Blah, you guys know who the special teams studs are. Belichek feels these players have value because of there ability to contribute on special teams and I don't think he will forfeit that value by having Gostkowski kick the ball through the end zone. I don't see Belichek shifting his focus away from special teams. He says special teams are less important, but has he cut any special teams stars, no. Has he signed other special teams stars, yes!. The Neko guy, Idhedigbo, etc. He still thinks kick off return is very important.
I don't think he is signing these special teams stars for the other areas of the kicking game. Belichek can't realy expect to punt that much. Kickoff return is the most important special team because the patriots expect to score a lot. Patriots
probably expect to kickoff at least 4 or 5 times every game.
So, in conclusion, my theory is that, while Belichek is leading the rest of the league to believe that kickoffs are now unimportant, Belichek is going to try to capitalize on the new rule by now having Gostkowski kick high-kickoff with a lot of hang time and have his coverage team much closer to the returner when the cath the ball, almost certainly resulting in more fumbled kick returns than kickoffs returned for touchdowns.
Didn't Belichek just essentially tell the media that they were stupid for suggesting Mayo could play outside linebacker, and then go out and have Mayo play outside linebacker? Even for a preseason game he does not want to reveal his strategy. Isn't this plausible?
What do you think?
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