When Mason Crosby was booting extra points from 33 yards instead of the standard 20 during the first couple preseason games last summer, he had a feeling that something was up.
“Obviously, it’s something I saw happening with the trial we had last year in the preseason,” Crosby said on Thursday. “The writing was on the wall that this was going to be coming down the line.”
What went down the line was the NFL’s decision to place the ball on the 15-yard line rather than the 2-yard line for extra-point attempts for at least the upcoming season. Kickers had gotten too good for their own good. Last season, kickers league-wide missed just six extra points. Two of those were blocks against Crosby. So, the NFL decided to add some drama to what had been a drama-free play by making the kickers’ job more difficult and the two-point play more inviting.
For his part, Crosby said a 33-yard kick isn’t much different than a 20-yarder. The stats back up that claim. He is 12-of-13 from that distance for his career, with the only miss being a block in the 2008 opener.
“For me, it’s relatively the same thing,” Crosby said. “I didn’t go out and practice extra points all the time (in the past). Obviously, I’ll get a little more work from that yardage whenever we do normal field-goal situations. For me, it’s almost becoming more that (for a practice regimen). Whether it’s worth one point or three, go out there and execute. You’ve got to be able to make it — and make it frequently — as many touchdowns as our offense scores.”
If the idea was to challenge the kickers, Crosby predicts he and his brethren will rise to the occasion. If that’s the case, then the NFL probably will be disappointed with the limited impact of it change. Over the last three seasons, kickers are 94.4 percent from that range, including 96.7 percent in 2014, according to ESPN’s Kevin Seifert. During the preseason trial, a combination of NFL-caliber kickers and camp legs combined to convert 94.3 percent of the time.
“Any time there’s a rule change that affects your job and your opportunity to make points directly, it’s a challenge,” Crosby said. “It’s an opportunity to take that as a challenge and get better. I see guys just excelling and moving forward as it’s another opportunity to increase our value. Obviously, the percentage in the NFL has gone higher and higher every year and I don’t see much change in that. The demand for that kick has definitely heightened. I’ve never talked as much about an extra point as I have these last couple weeks. In that regard, it’s done what they hoped for where it’s gotten conversation. There’s different strategy that’s involved. Who knows what teams will do — if they will do anything differently — but there are some variables that come into play with this change.”
One variable could be the weather. Chances are, the near-automatic nature of even the extended extra point won’t change the thinking of too many coaches, who are afraid to give away a point. However, given the cold and wind and crummy fields in northern climates in December and January, perhaps the rule change could add the drama the NFL is looking for in the most drama-filled games.
“Obviously, it’s speculative,” Crosby said. “If you look at conditions and things like that, any kind of kicking situation becomes a little more difficult that time of year. We’re going to have to prepare for that, like we do any field in that situation.”firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.