The NFL will begin testing placing trackers in footballs in order to determine if the league will narrow its field goal uprights, according to an exclusive story by Toronto Star. The league is rolling out the process for the entire preseason and Thursday night games during the regular season. From the Star’s interview with Dean Blandino, the league’s senior VP of officiating.
“The discussion has really revolved around narrowing the uprights,” Blandino said. “That would be one way to affect both the extra point and the field goal. (Success rates) have continued to climb over the years as our field-goal kickers and that whole process has become so specialized, from long snapper to holder to kicker.”
The trackers , a microchip, will measure how easily kicks clear the uprights in order to determine if the league will choose to narrow the width of them.
The league has clearly made an effort to make the kicking game tougher in recent years, including making extra points 33 yards, which drastically reduced their success rate.
Chris Boswell had little issue with the rule change, making 26 of 27 extra points in his debut season with the Steelers.
Blandino tells The Star changes could come as early as 2017.
“You never know,” he said. “We’ll see what the data tells us. The committee will discuss it and then make a recommendation for 2017 if they feel that we need to go that route. But I wouldn’t know at this point, without seeing how it goes this year.”
It’s unclear how much more narrow the league could make the uprights though as The Star points out, the NFL experimented with a 14 foot upright in the 2015 Pro Bowl, reduced from its normal 18 feet, 6 inch width.
Though as we pointed out, Boswell did well last season, if the league continues to make the kicking game more challenging, Northeast teams like Pittsburgh could continue to trend towards going for two point conversions. Especially later in the year, when the weather turns sour and the realization the extra point isn’t that much more assured than a two-point play.
Trackers are just one of several things the league is trying out in the preseason, the rest you can read in the Toronto Star’s article, which has the transcript of a full interview with Blandino.