By Staff

BOSTON (CBS) — The NFL season kicks off on Thursday night. With it will come the first year with a new rule that could prove very useful to Josh McDaniels, James White, and the New England Patriots’ offense.

Peter King spotlighted this rule in his weekly column, noting that a new rule forbidding contact below the knees outside of the tackle box “has gotten zero attention this summer.” Based on what else King said, the rule change surely has not gone unnoticed in Foxboro.

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“It’s now illegal to block a man below the waist more than two yards outside the tackle or more than five yards on either side of the line of scrimmage. The intent is to eliminate chopping players at the knees, often at full speed,” King said.

King added: “I think offenses will have a big advantage here, particularly in things like wide runs or the screen game. As one coach told me, ‘Third-down backs will love this rule. They’ll be able to get out on the edge and instead of getting six to eight yards, they might get 15 because the play can’t get blown up by the DB cutting the guard or tackle.'”

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For a team with a dynamic third-down back, that figures to be of some consequence when dialing up certain plays in certain situations. Instead of a cornerback taking out the lead blocker, the undersized corner will more often have to get out of the way, or work to avoid contact while staying in the play, which is no easy feat. One wrong step could lead to a lot of extra yards for the ball carrier.

And while the rules obviously apply to everybody, the Patriots have James White, who’s been one of the best pass-catching running backs in the NFL for years. The Patriots also have the shifty and hard-to-find J.J. Taylor, who could likewise find himself capitalizing on such situations. Plus, with the way Rhamondre Stevenson has been showing off his jump cuts on the perimeter, the rookie could be breaking some big gains as well.

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The Patriots will lean heavily on the run game, with rookie Mac Jones getting his first real taste of NFL action. And if this rule change is enforced as written, it ought to help the offense maintain some lengthy drives throughout the year. Staff