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Joe DeCamillis: "Uncharted territory"

Jacksonville Jaguars during an OTA practice session Thursday, May, 24, 2018 in Jacksonville, Fl. (Rick Wilson/Jacksonville Jaguars)
Jacksonville Jaguars during an OTA practice session Thursday, May, 24, 2018 in Jacksonville, Fl. (Rick Wilson/Jacksonville Jaguars)

JACKSONVILLE – Joe DeCamillis already is working.

And drawing. And planning.

That likely won't change soon for the Jaguars' special teams coordinator, a 31-year NFL coaching veteran whose profile increased dramatically this week when the NFL implemented a series of significant changes to its kickoff rules.

"It's going to be uncharted territory for a lot us," DeCamillis said Thursday following the Jaguars' second 2018 Organized Team Activities practice at the Dream Finders Home Practice Complex.

NFL owners on Wednesday voted the following changes to kickoffs while attempting to increase player safety:

*Players on the kicking team may not line up more than one yard from the "point of kickoff," eliminating the five-yard running start previously permitted.

*Players may no longer "wedge block," meaning only players who line up in the so-called "set-up" zone – between their own 40-yard line and the opponents' 45-yard-line – can double team opponents.

*The receiving team must now line up eight players in the aforementioned set-up zone.

*The kickoff team must line up five players on each side of the ball, eliminating the ability to line up six players on one side and four on the other.

*Players on the receiving team must not cross their "restraining line" – their own 45 – until the ball is touched or hits the ground. This is designed to decrease high-impact, high-speed collisions.

*A ball touching the ground in the end zone is now immediately a touchback.

"The thinking is what they're trying to do is make it more like a punt, to where it's a 'run-with' play rather than a 'run-into' play," DeCamillis said. "It's going to be challenging. No question."

The NFL has been studying and implementing ways to make the game safer and reduce concussions. The kickoff long has been considered one of the game's most dangerous, high-impact plays.

"The bottom line is everybody wants a safer play," DeCamillis said. "It's not just kickoff; it's all throughout the league on everything. … Everybody wants a safer play and kickoff's just one of them. … Hopefully, it's addressed and we can keep the play in. It's an important play from a field-position standpoint."

DeCamillis said teams likely will experiment with and evaluate their approach to kickoff concepts such as the onside kick.

"It's going to be something people are going to toy with and see," he said. "We'll see how it works."

DeCamillis also said his early thought is that the new rules could be an advantage for the receiving team because of the elimination of the running start for the coverage team. DeCamillis also said that could encourage coaches to put high-profile, speed players on kickoff returns.

"You don't have the momentum going into the ball," he said. "We had speed going into it. … I think it's probably at the start anyway to cause more returns. We'll see. Who knows how it's going to go?"

Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone said earlier in the day he and DeCamillis had started discussing the changes and possible approaches to kickoffs next season. DeCamillis said after practice Thursday he already has worked extensively trying to design possible return and kickoff concepts.

"Hopefully, it will be an advantage for the Jaguars," he said. "Believe me, I've drawn every scenario. It will be something during preseason – I can tell you that. … You have to come up with what you think you're going to see from a coverage standpoint and you also have to see what you think you're going to see from a return standpoint.

"I think we're a little more prepared than some teams, but we'll see."

DeCamillis said special teams coaches had been preparing for and dealing with possible changes to the play for much of the last decade.

"We've known it's been coming for a while," DeCamillis said. "The talk has been for a while now – probably since 2010 – about the play being modified. There have been a lot of ideas out there since. There is a lot of discussion among special teams guys. You have to adjust and adapt."

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