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.