Assuming we actually have an NFL season in 2011, the league made a few rule changes, one of which could directly affect the Houston Texans. We don't mean the ban on changing the color of the turf without league approval. The Texans have grass in their stadium, though I'm sure they could find some mad scientist horticulturist out there to create some sick, human centipede-like grass bastardization that would turn the field "deep steel blue."
The rule change we believe will have the biggest impact on the Texans is the one to move the kickoff spot from the 30 to the 35-yard-line.
The Texans have long been a woefully underachieving kickoff return team. There have been a string of backup running backs, practice squad players and guys who aren't in the league any longer (remember J.J. Moses?), most of whom special teams coach Joe Marciano simply wanted to hold onto the football and not do something stupid like step out of bounds on the 1-yard-line (cough...Steve Slaton).
Their best years were 2005, when Jerome Mathis went to the Pro Bowl, averaging 28 yards per return with two touchdowns, and 2007, when Andre Davis averaged 30 yards per return and had three touchdowns.
Those numbers don't sound half bad, except that in their nine years in the league, they have only scored seven times on kickoffs and five of those came in the two years mentioned above.
On the other hand, the Texans generally rank in the top ten in kick return defense and they do a decent job of forcing touchbacks. With the rule change adding an extra five yards to the kickoff spot -- and another rule moving a touchback from the 20 to the 25 shot down -- there is one area where the Texans could improve without doing anything, which is probably a good thing considering their track record when it comes to improvements from year to year.
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