1 Viking Is Happy about New Rule Changes. 1 Is Not.

Roster Spot Could Change
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The NFL owners assembled for the first time in March for their annual league meeting, but a second meeting took place in Minneapolis between March 22-24. It’s the setting where new rules are passed, and this year’s rule changes made life easier for some and harder for others. A couple of Vikings players were affected.

1 Viking Is Happy about New Rule Changes. 1 Is Not.

One new rule impacts the kickoffs in the NFL. Ian Rapoport tweeted on Tuesday: “The NFL has passed a new rule instituting all fair catches and touchbacks come out to the 25-yard line on kickoffs, source said. Now the same as the college rule, the thought is that this should make it safer, though special teams coaches around the league oppose the change.”

1 Viking Is Happy About New Rule Changes, 1 Is Not.
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Why is it supposed to make the game safer? First of all, it is noble and the right thing to do to make the game safer for players putting their bodies and brains in danger on every play.

The NFL changed the kickoff rule a few years ago when they moved the ball after a touchback from the 20-yard line to the 25. Kickoffs became a worse alternative for many. A touchback guarantees a decent field position. But the teams had a different idea. They basically forced a return by kicking short of the goal line. Players couldn’t make a fair catch because they would’ve wasted a lot of yards. That’s what the NFL addressed. They can now call fair catch at the five-yard line (or anywhere else) and get the ball at the 25. Many folks in the league, including many coaches, hate the change.

The downside of the rule is that many teams are expected to stop returning the football, which would outlaw any kick returns, and a kickoff would become totally useless. The job of a kick returner is a way players make the roster. The Vikings employ Kene Nwangwu strictly because he is good at that one thing, catching a kickoff and taking it to the house. He scored a league-leading three times in his first two career seasons.

If the Vikings decide to stop the gamble because that’s what a return is, nobody knows if the offense gets the ball at the 15, the 20, the 25, or not at all because he scored or fumbled, and just take it at the 25, Nwangwu might not be on the team much longer.

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Despite his elite speed, he has shown nothing on offense in two career seasons and only received 28 touches as a running back without any significant success. Nwangwu has to fight off competition as the Vikes drafted another back in consecutive years. Ty Chandler, a 2022 rookie, looked good in last year’s preseason. An injury slowed him down, but he could get a chance if the Vikings indeed complete a rumored Dalvin Cook trade. DeWayne McBride is a powerful runner and joined the Vikings in the seventh round of the 2023 draft.

However, Nwangwu’s big play ability to change a game via one kick return is still valuable. It costs the Vikings a couple of yards every now and then, but it can pay off big time. Nwangwu changed the game just last year during the Thanksgiving game against the Patriots when he returned a kickoff for a score. A significant play to win the game on a day on which the Vikings couldn’t stop Mac Jones for some reason. Who knows if the Vikes pull off the victory without that play?

Nwangwu’s calling card is the kick-return game, and he might be in trouble without it. Someone else can catch the ball and call a fair catch. Chandler returned kicks in college.

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More positive news from the league meeting came for rookie quarterback Jaren Hall. The league approved that a third quarterback can be active on gameday without wasting a roster spot. Most teams in the league activated only two QBs for a game because the roster spots are limited to 48. We all witnessed that problem during the NFC Championship game when the 49ers suddenly didn’t have anyone left with the ability to throw a pass and subsequently got blown out by the Eagles.

Tom Pelissero tweeted: “NFL owners approved the bylaw proposal allowing teams to dress a third QB without using an active roster spot, I’m told. A no-brainer to bring it back in the aftermath of the San Francisco playoff game.”

That means Hall doesn’t have to fear losing his roster spot if he can’t beat out Nick Mullens for the backup QB job. The Vikings carried only two QBs on the active roster in 2022, but that should change now.

The third quarterback is only for emergency purposes if the other two passers can’t play, so he can’t be subbed in during a blowout win or loss to get some reps. It won’t help Hall get more reps, but it should help him secure a roster spot.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt