How NFL’s new kickoff rule could change Sundays

As we noted earlier this offseason, the NFL is implementing a new kickoff rule for the upcoming season. The league’s owners approved a new “XFL-style” approach to kickoffs back in March, which designates a 20-yard “landing zone” before the goal line. Kicks have to land inside this area, otherwise the returning team could start with very advantageous field position. For example, kicks that land short of the 20-yard “landing zone” will see the returning team start their ensuing possession on their own 40-yard line.

The rule is designed at promoting player safety, and reducing the high-speed collisions that are often seen on kickoffs when players on the kicking team can get a 40-yard, sprinting start on their tackles. But now, according to legendary Kansas City Chiefs special teams coach Dave Toub, there could be a rather interesting side effect.

The need for kickers — or at least players who are kicking off — to tackle.

Speaking at the Chiefs’ OTAs on Thursday, Toub noted that following the approval of the rule Kansas City coaches went and watched every XFL kickoff, and found that kickers were in some way involved in around 20-40% of tackles.

That might see Harrison Butker sidelined for kickoffs, and replaced by Justin Reid.

“I mean, Butker is able to make a tackle, but I really don’t want him making tackles all year long. You know, if you watch the XFL, we watched every play. I bet kickers were involved in probably at least 25 to 40% of the tackles, you know, either either trying to make a guy bounce back or making the tackle itself or just missing the tackle,” said Toub on Thursday.

“So, you know, we don’t want Bucker in that situation. But he will be a kicker, he’ll be a guy that we will use in certain situations. He’s got a lot of ability to move the ball, you know, whereas those other guys may not be as apt to doing that. And we’ll use them, [Butker] can still kick a touchback if we need it.”

Toub also noted that using a player like Reid may pose problems for the return teams, as suddenly they have to factor the kicker into their blocking schemes.

“So, well, Justin, Justin can cover. I mean, he could kick, he can, and then he can go down there and make tackles. You know, he’s an extra guy that they’re probably not accounting for. I mean, they know that that guy can go down to tackle, but a guy like Justin is a guy that they have to worry about,” added Toub. “You have to get him blocked and you have to give up blocking somebody else.

“So that’s the whole thought of that.”

You can see all of Toub’s comments in this clip:

One thing is clear: This new rule is likely to change the NFL.

Perhaps in ways we did not see coming.

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