In an initiative to more precisely analyze place-kicking and ball placement, the NFL is reportedly finalizing plans to put custom data chips in certain game footballs.
ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert reported the technological development Sunday, indicating the footballs would be deployed throughout the 2016 preseason and in Thursday night regular-season contests.
According to John Kryk of the Toronto Sun (h/t Seifert), the primary objective of the chips is to determine the prospective impact of shortening the distance between the goal posts. The NFL aims to measure how close extra-point and field-goal attempts come to the uprights.
According to Seifert, kickers converted 84.5 percent of their field-goal attempts in 2015—the second-most successful rate in NFL history. The league hopes the chips would help project how tightening the kickers' target would affect their conversion rates.
As for ball placement, the league has been eyeing the use of chips to improve in that area for years, per Seifert. The chips could help officials determine whether the ball crosses the goal line or determine specific location on plays near the first-down marker.
The league recently notified all 32 teams of the plan to introduce the chip-infused balls, according to Seifert. Veteran quarterbacks gave the NFL feedback to ensure the balls didn't behave differently in the air as opposed to regular footballs.
Life has already become trickier for kickers with the lengthened extra point the league put in place last season, which led to a marked decrease in conversion rates. The conversion rate dropped from 99.3 percent in 2014 to 94.2 percent last year, per Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk. Narrowing the uprights would only further heighten the stakes of every kick.
As long as the chip technology is sound, improving precision in terms of ball placement would be a huge plus for the league, too. According to Seifert, previous research has suggested chips aren't useful in determining placement during plays in which players pile up on the ball.