Riders’ head coach Craig Dickenson believes moving hash marks will be ‘most impactful’ new rule for 2022

Photo courtesy: Saskatchewan Roughriders

Rule changes have been the topic du jour for CFL fans and media for much of the off-season.

But the people who the changes really affect, the players and coaches, are finally starting to weigh in on the nine new rules that will come into effect at the start of this season.

“The one you are going to see that may be the most impactful will be the moving of the hashes,” Saskatchewan Roughriders’ head coach Craig Dickenson said this week.

The CFL decided that they would move the hash marks closer to the centre of the field for the 2022 season, with each set of hashes now being 28 yards from the nearest sideline as opposed to 24. That means the hash marks will now be nine yards apart as opposed to the 17 they have been in past seasons.

Dickenson believes this will open up the far side of the field.

“The new wide side of the field is going to be closer than it used to be,” said Dickenson. “That may bring a little element to the passing game to that new wide of the field.”

There is no denying that the new rules are geared towards more offence, but could adding so many new rules actually hamper offences to start the season?

“Our coordinators and offensive coaches are having to reconfigure how they line up. Every play we run is based off landmarks, so they are going to have extra work to try to get things squared away the way they are supposed to be.”

As a general rule of thumb, CFL offences tend to lag behind defences at the start of the season. Add in new rules like changing the configuration of the field and offences may lag behind even more so to start this upcoming year.

Narrowing the hash marks won’t just affect offences, however. The kicking game will be different, with field goals now being closer to the middle of the field. Dickenson does not believe this will have as much of an effect on that area of the game as some others might think.

“I think it’ll help them, but I don’t think as much as people realize. Good kickers understand angles and a hash kick doesn’t bother good kickers much at all. Kickers in this league are pretty darn good; 85-90 percent is the new norm, maybe now you’ll see 87-92 percent.”

One area of special teams where Dickenson does see the narrower hash marks having an impact is onside kicks.

“I do think it will affect the onside kick. It gives you a little less room when you’re on the right and kicking it all the way left or vice versa. So I think you’re going to see a little more creativity on onside kicks.”

Creativity, you say? Even for a play that we may only see a handful of times a season, any idea that forces coaches to innovate is a good idea.

Allowing two quarterbacks on the field was another popular change for 2022, but Dickenson doesn’t see that having much of an impact at all.

“I think there are some things you could do having two quarterbacks on the field at the same time, but the reality is there is only one ball. I think you’ll see some double passes and stuff like that, but I’m not sure that will make any sort of meaningful impact.”

Even so, the Riders bench boss does think it was a worthwhile change allowing teams to put two quarterbacks on the field at the same time.

“It’s an easy rule change and I think it adds the ability to do a couple more plays that might be designed to get that second player to throw the ball. I think it adds some excitement. Now how much will offences use it? We’ll see. Even if this leads to one or two exciting plays during the year, it would probably be worth it.”

Fans have weighed in and been almost universal in their acceptance of the new rules, hoping their adoption will add more excitement to a game that felt stagnant at times last season.

With fans already on board, it is nice to see one of the league’s top coaches offer his support for the changes as well.

Josh Smith has been writing about the Ticats and the CFL since 2010 and was sporting his beard way before it was cool. Will be long after, too.