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Number of kickoffs returned continues to rise

DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 04:  Kicker Brandon McManus #8 of the Denver Broncos takes the ball for the opening kickoff against the Minnesota Vikings at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on October 4, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Vikings 23-20.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images) Getty Images

Through the first two weeks of the season, NFL teams returned 37.3 percent of kickoffs in what was a sharp increase from the first two weeks of the 2015 season.

That wasn’t the intent of the league’s decision to implement a rule change for this season that gives teams the ball on the 25-yard-line rather than on the 20-yard-line after a touchback. The league hoped for fewer kickoff returns in hopes of cutting down on the number of injuries sustained during kickoffs, but coaches have opted for different strategies with kickoffs in hopes of keeping teams inside their 25-yard-line.

The trend of the first two weeks is showing no signs of stopping. Kevin Seifert of ESPN reports that the number of kickoffs returned has moved up to 38.12 percent, up from 33.49 percent at this point last season. Kicks are reaching the end zone 79.4 percent of the time as opposed to 91.9 percent of the time in 2015, which reflects the way teams have chosen to react to the rule change.

Implementation of the rule was done on a one-year basis and the early returns suggest that there won’t be a second year under the current setup if the league is interested in making kickoff returns less frequent.

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14 Responses to “Number of kickoffs returned continues to rise”
  1. Packernet says: Oct 6, 2016 11:50 AM

    The league is not concerned with the number of kickoff returns, they are concerned with the number of injuries on kickoff returns. This rule has worked great in that respect. It will be implemented long term.

  2. marmac2768 says: Oct 6, 2016 12:02 PM

    While I understand the idea of trying to cut down on injuries caused by kick returns, but a couple of questions come to mind.

    First, why bring the ball out to the 25 yard line? Why not keep it at the 20? With the new rule, the incentive for the kicking team is to “pooch” it higher and not as deep to try to catch the receiving team inside the 25. If it was still the 20, that is inside the 25 and teams might be content with that, especially if you have a great kick returner.

    Second, why did the league outlaw the blocking scheme that was used for many years, 3 players forming up in front of the kick returner to break up the tackling formation? Now, since they can’t “hold hands” and form a wedge, the kicking team’s “gunners” can just go full speed down the field into the runner and that seems much more dangerous than is used to be with the wedge.

    Third, and this would be the most controversial; why not just do away with the kickoff completely? Mind you, I am not saying that they should, there is no play in football more exciting than to watch a kick returned for a long way or a TD. But, doing away with the kickoff and just placing the ball on the 20 yard line would be more prudent as far a safety for players is concerned. IMHO.

  3. TheDPR says: Oct 6, 2016 12:02 PM

    If the number of kickoffs has risen, then surely the number of injuries on kickoffs has gone up correspondingly.
    Right? It must have.

    Otherwise the entire idea that kick returns are more inherently dangerous than other football plays would be bunk.

    Still waiting for data. . .

  4. rob471773 says: Oct 6, 2016 12:08 PM

    Packernet says:

    Oct 6, 2016 11:50 AM

    The league is not concerned with the number of kickoff returns, they are concerned with the number of injuries on kickoff returns. This rule has worked great in that respect. It will be implemented long term.
    ——————–
    more kickoff returns = more injuries on kickoff returns.

    This rule was put in place so the league could “look like” they care about concussions/player safety.

    It has badly back fired in their face and I love it.

    Maybe Goodell should have consulted with all of the special teams coaches before making his latest bone head decision.

    Best part of it all is how Bill Belichick is using the new rules to his advantage better than anyone else in the league.

  5. joetoronto says: Oct 6, 2016 12:10 PM

    Maybe in the future they’ll ask the HC’s around the league for their input before making rule changes like this.

    Maybe.

  6. 6ball says: Oct 6, 2016 12:15 PM

    .
    Once again it’s Belichick (the roadrunner) vs Goodell (the coyote) . Beep, Beep !!!
    .

  7. Packernet says: Oct 6, 2016 12:26 PM

    more kickoff returns = more injuries on kickoff returns

    ——-

    Not true. Just like a punt now and nobody is complaining about injuries on punts.

  8. ebdug says: Oct 6, 2016 12:27 PM

    With the TV ratings dropping, owners will not be inclined to eliminate kick returns.

  9. fireroger says: Oct 6, 2016 12:31 PM

    What would be interesting to see is if the number of injuries are also increasing or did the league remove a key component of the game for no reason at all.

  10. lunar2013 says: Oct 6, 2016 12:50 PM

    rob471773 says:
    Oct 6, 2016 12:08 PM
    Best part of it all is how Bill Belichick is using the new rules to his advantage better than anyone else in the league.


    6ball says:
    Oct 6, 2016 12:15 PM
    Once again it’s Belichick (the roadrunner) vs Goodell (the coyote) . Beep, Beep !!!

    —-

    Patriots aren’t the only ones who do this. Lots of teams take advantage of this new rule. Just that Pats have a decent kicker (which people complained about wasting a pick on, mind you) that can pull off a decent high/deep kick on a regular basis. A lot of teams don’t value a good punter.

  11. jsavage58 says: Oct 6, 2016 1:16 PM

    Changing the rule was a False Flag. NFL did this with the intention if increasing returns, therefor increasing the opportunity for injury. When they have enough “data” to “prove” its “dangerous”, they will use it to eliminate kickoffs which is what they want.

  12. athwartships says: Oct 6, 2016 1:35 PM

    Possible the players are quietly organized on this and pushing back against the very obvious plan by the League to eventually eliminate the kick all together?

    I have seen a lot of return attempts that made almost no sense at all for small yards and no one seems to be commenting on it at the time it happens.

    If it is a small revolt on the subject….I like it. The League is wrong.

  13. pftstory says: Oct 6, 2016 3:33 PM

    I’d like to see….

    Kick it through the end zone on the fly, team starts at the 30.

    Catch it in the end zone and take a knee, team starts at the 20.

    Bounce it through the end zone, team starts at the 25.

    This is because I’d like to see MORE returns. It also allows for the returner to decide if he should risk letting it bounce or not.

  14. marmac2768 says: Oct 6, 2016 4:00 PM

    I am amazed at the change in the philosophy of the kicking game has changed because of this rule change. For many years, the idea was FOR the kicker to kick it out of the back of the end zone, now coaches are coaching for them to kick it high and NOT out of the end zone to get better field position. I think that is a strange change for kickers. One of the best stats for kickers is how many of their kickoffs were touchbacks and not returned. Now, I suppose a NEW stat for kickers is due.

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