Washington Redskins special teams coordinator Ben Kotwica is tasked with finding a core that makes up a decent portion of the 53-man roster and quietly plays an important role in determining the outcome of every game.
As the NFL continues to push its game into becoming a safer platform, a new rule will go into effect this season that will drastically reduce the chances of severe injuries on a play that can be regarded as the most dangerous in the game, the kickoff.
Per the NFL's Football Operations,, the proposal approved in May prevents players on the kicking team from getting a running start on their way downfield and excludes any kind of "wedge" blocking, which is where multiple blockers link themselves together as the play progresses. In addition, eight of the 11 players on the receiving team must line up within 15 yards from the spot of the kickoff, which terminates hitting within that area.
"I'm encouraged by it; I was part of the big group in making the play safer," Kotwica said after the rule was approved. "Special teams coordinators from across the league went up to the league office, [President & CEO of the Atlanta Falcons] Rich McKay, [NFL Executive President of Football Operations] Troy Vincent and medical guys. It was a good effort to put something together to keep the play exciting and make it safe."
Take a look at the 2018 Washington Redskins coaching staff through photos.
Since the rule has been approved, the growing thought is that the changes will benefit return teams. This is mainly due to the eliminated running start, as players on the kicking team will not be able to gain the same amount of momentum with having to wait for the kick.
Kotwica, of course, believes that there is more to it than just a player's built-up speed prior to the kick.
"My take is that the blocking is going to be a little bit more difficult for the return team because you've got guys that are closer to the restraining line," Kotwica said. "There's a little more space on the backend. However, there's also a little bit more space on the kick. So that ability to kick the ball in the end zone and if it does go into the back of the end zone it's a touchback. If you are in a situation where you are still facing a dangerous return. You still want to kick it deep, and have the touchback availability."
The "touchback availability" that the Tinley Park, Ill., native refers to is something that will become a recurring theme throughout the 2018 season. Coaches will be tasked with deciding whether they will forgo the field position battle in hopes that they prevent a big return and allowing the receiving team to begin at the 25-yard line.
Dustin Hopkins' ability to launch the ball into the endzone with ease will certainly play a role in deciding what the Redskins will do with this situation, but nothing has been determined yet. In addition, this scheme will almost certainly change every week, depending on whom the Redskins are playing and what the scenario of the football game is.
"Yeah, we'll do it out here first [at minicamp], and then we'll work it against the [New York] Jets when they come to training camp," head coach Jay Gruden said. "Then we have four preseason games to get a look at it and go from there."