Automatic Ejections Now Possible, Plus Another Key Rule Change

The NFL has made two more additional changes to the rules for 2016

On Tuesday, the NFL announced that there were seven rule proposals that had been passed through the competition committee heading into the 2016 NFL season.

Just a day later, the NFL announced that there are two additional rules that will be in place for next season on a one-year tryout basis.

The first of these two rules is that players will now be automatically ejected from a game if they are flagged for two unsportsmanlike conduct fouls in a game.

Here are the penalties that fall under this guideline:

(a) Throwing a punch, or a forearm, or kicking at an opponent, even though no contact is made. 
(b) Using abusive, threatening, or insulting language or gestures to opponents, teammates, officials, or representatives of the League. 
(c) Using baiting or taunting acts or words that engender ill will between teams.

Last season, the Kansas City Chiefs were called for four unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in their 18 games, but none of those were in the same game or came from the same player, and only two of them would have fit in the criteria listed above.

The NFL had an average of 2.72 unsportsmanlike penalties called per team last season.

The other rule the NFL has changed for the 2016 NFL season is that touchbacks will now result in the ball coming out to the 25-yard line, instead of the 20-yard line as it was previously.

The average touchback percentage for NFL teams last season was 57.4 percent, but the Chiefs were among the most likely in the league to bring the ball out on a kickoff return last season, despite how deep the kickoff was in the end zone.

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The Chiefs brought out the ball on a kickoff 54.8 percent of the time, which ranked as third most in the NFL.

"Anytime a team comes out with it, there's always a chance that they could pop one," Chiefs special teams coordinator Dave Toub said last season. "If things go wrong – I mean, that's why we come out with it, we try to put pressure on the kickoff team.

"Kickoffs that go out of the end zone, we take every one of those, we love them."

It will be interesting to see how some of these statistics might change across the league with the extra 5 yards being tacked on with a touchback coming out to the 25-yard line.

The NFL average starting field position after kickoffs last season was the 21.7-yard line, but the Chiefs and the fact that they consistently brought it out of the end zone—ranked No. 9 in the NFL with an average starting field position of the 22.5-yard line.

Of course, if the Chiefs can get the kind of result they saw from Knile Davis in the playoff game against the Houston Texans, when he brought it out from 6 yards deep to race 106 yards for the touchdown, there might not be a whole lot of change from the return units by the Chiefs.

From a kicker's point of view, a touchback will also result in an additional 5 yards for the opposing offense, so there's a chance that kicking it higher and shorter might be the result of this new rule as well.

This new rule just adds another dimension to the chess game that coaches play.

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