The habit of carrying two kickers has become commonplace for the Carolina Panthers. The original Panther John Kasay is still as accurate as the day is long, but unfortunately he just doesn't have the leg anymore to hold the kickoff duties; that was until the NFL passed the new ruling moving up kickoffs 5 yards.
This likely means that Jason Baker will handle the KO duties, which Kasay will remain for his accuracy- but where does this put Rhys Lloyd? There's little doubting the Booming Brit is a fan favorite. Just look at our collective elation when it was announced he would be returning to the Panthers. When fans have that kind of attachement to a kickoff specialist it should tell you a little something about his role.
As it stands nobody really knows how teams will handle kickoffs in 2011. Will they elect to hit the end-zone like normal? Or will they elect for a sky high, rugby-esque kickoff to pin teams within their own 10 yard line?
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In 2010 a kickoff of 70 yards was required to get into the endzone, and roughly a kickoff of 74 yards was needed for a touchback. In 2011 and beyond it will only take 65 yards for the endzone and roughly 69 yards for a touchback.
When John Kasay attempted kickoffs last year he averaged just 57 yards per kick. Under the NFL's new rules this would cause him to reach the opposing 8 yard line. So we come to Rhys Lloyd who in 2010 averaged a kickoff of 66.5 yards. If this were to translate into the NFL's new rules it would mean Lloyd's average exceeds the end-zone, essentially giving the Panthers a great many touch back's by nature.
Jason Baker is the unknown quantity in this equation. I can't find reliable stats on any of his past kickoffs so it's hard to know what his average is. Can he fulfill the duty at all? Time will tell.
What do you think Panthers' fans? Can the organization afford to carry two kickers this season if it means guaranteeing a touch back on every kickoff?