There’s a new rule on kickoffs this year in the NFL. A touchback will now be put on the 25-yard line as opposed to the 20-yard line. The league’s thinking when it made the rule is that more returners would down the ball for a touchback rather than take it out because it’s hard to get a 25-yard return.
However, the NFL is finding out that instead of kicking it that deep kickers are now putting the ball inside the 5-yard line to force a return. Kickers are accurate enough to do that and coverage teams think they can bring them down inside the 25-yard line.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid said on PFT Live that this could lead to more returns than ever.
“Listen, I think these special teams guys are smart guys,” Reid said. “They’re popping the ball up. We might have more returns than we’ve ever had. It’s crazy. I’m not sure it’s the same statement the league was trying to get but that’s what we’re getting right now. These kickers are so accurate and they can put it right down there at the 5-yard line of the goal line and force you into a return and then your coverage team has to do your thing. Special teams coaches and coverage teams have the confidence that if the kicker does that they can keep them within the 20-yard area. I think you’re probably going to see more returns than ever. “
The numbers prove him right. The Denver Post has the numbers where last year during the regular season teams returned kickoffs an average of 2.11 times per game. Through two weeks of the preseason this year, teams are returning it 2.83 times per game.
The Chiefs have an elite special teams unit under Dave Toub. He thinks Tyreek Hill has Devin Hester speed and that this is the deepest they’ve been on special teams in a while. So I think it’s fair to say that this new return rule will be an advantage for the Chiefs.