Do Panthers need a kickoff specialist?

We’ve only just begun to find out the philosophies of new Carolina coach Ron Rivera and I don’t think he’s been asked yet how he feels about using a roster spot for a kickoff specialist.

That’s something his predecessor John Fox did for much of the last four years by carrying Rhys Lloyd. But today’s news from the NFL competition committee that the league is proposing some major changes to kickoff rules could have a big impact on Lloyd’s value to Rivera or any other NFL coach.

The competition committee will ask teams to vote at next week’s owners meeting on a proposal to move the point of the kickoff from the 30-yard line to the 35-yard line. In other words, kickers will start five yards ahead of where they have been. The proposal also includes switching the point of a touchback from the receiving team’s 20-yard line to the 25-yard line.

This could make Lloyd expendable. He already was coming off a rather unimpressive 2010 season. Lloyd produced just 11 touchbacks. He had 21 in 2009 and 30 in 2008.

Veteran place-kicker John Kasay might not have the leg strength he once did, but he might be able to get the ball close to the end zone if he’s kicking off from the 35-yard line. Punter Jason Baker also has handled some kickoffs in the past.