The NFL’s 32 special teams coaches have a new challenge this year as the league’s decision to change kickoffs have thrust them into uncharted water heading into the regular season.
The changes, which include no running starts for the coverage team and a ban on wedge blocking by return teams, have been described as making kickoffs look more like punts, but Eagles special teams coach Dave Fipp isn’t sure exactly what things will look like once teams are on the field. That’s why he’s running through as many options as possible while coming up with a plan.
“It’s going to be a faster play. I think there’s going to make for more action,” Fipp said, via the team’s website. “At the end of the day, I think it’s going to be an exciting play. I don’t know for sure whether there will be more returns or less. Time will tell on that. What we’ve decided to do is just run a million different things. Each week we’ve installed three or four different returns and we go to the practice field and run them and see what we like and don’t like and then keep coming up with more ideas and seeing how they look. We just learn more and more things the more we do it.”
Running back Kenjon Barner was the primary kickoff returner last season, but he’s now in Carolina so the team will have someone new at the back end of whatever alignment Fipp comes up with in the next few months. Corey Clement and Wendell Smallwood also returned kicks last season and Darren Sproles is back, although the veteran has only returned three kickoffs since joining the Eagles in 2014.