The NFL implemented the new rule moving touchbacks after kickoffs to the 25-yard line in the hopes that it would result in fewer kick returns and therefore fewer injuries. Saints coach Sean Payton expects it to have the opposite effect.
“I think — this is me — the rule change is actually going to work in the opposite manner of the intention,” Payton said, via Josh Katzenstein of NOLA.com. “We’re going to have more kickoff returns because I think most teams feel like you can cover a kick inside 25 yards. . . . I just don’t think it’s going to turn out the way it was intended to, and I think there are other ways to make that play safer.”
That’s a popular opinion: Several NFL coaches and kickers have opined since the new rule was implemented that the best strategy on kickoffs will be to kick the ball high and try to land it somewhere between the goal line and the 5-yard line, then tackle the returner before he gets to the 25.
The NFL’s goal is fewer kickoff returns. It won’t be surprising if this year we see more kickoff returns, and next year the NFL tweaks the rule again.