Is the NFL’s New Kickoff Rule Backfiring?

September 22, 2016   ·     ·   Jump to comments

In an attempt to reduce the the frequency of kick returns—and by extension cut down on injuries—the NFL decided in the offseason to put the ball on the 25-yard line after a touchback. The rationale, of course, was that the extra five yards might cause returners to gamble less often on kicks that go into the end zone. 
The problem is that the change has also provoked teams to consider leaving kickoffs short of the end zone. And it makes sense, because the average kick return is about 24 yards, and extra air time on shorter-than-usual kicks would give coverage units extra time to reach the return man. 
Sure enough, as Mark Maske of the Washington Post pointed out earlier this month, touchbacks were, in fact, down, not up, during the 2016 preseason. 
In an officiating video sent to media members, Dean Blandino, the league’s vice president of officiating, addressed that discouraging trend by stating that "preseason kick return numbers do...

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