The NFL’s new kickoff rule is anticipated to increase the number of kickoff returns, including potentially more long returns where the kicker is the last defender standing. Consequently, kickers might find themselves making more tackles than ever before.

In response, some teams are contemplating assigning kickoff duties to non-kickers. Chiefs special teams coordinator Dave Toub has suggested safety Justin Reid might take on kickoffs. Reid has demonstrated a strong kicking ability and is more adept at tackling compared to Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker.

However, Rams special teams coordinator Chase Blackburn is skeptical about position players consistently executing precise kicks. “You don’t want your kicker making a ton of tackles,” Blackburn said to NBC Sports. “You don’t want a guy to get hurt, so there’s a little thought that goes into it. But if it’s short of the 20 or out of bounds, the ball’s going 25 yards from the spot of the kick, so it’s going to the 40-yard line. You don’t want that. I’d say there’s not too many position players you can bank on.”

Broncos coach Sean Payton also expressed caution about using a position player for kickoffs. Blackburn mentioned the possibility of instructing the kicker to simply aim for a touchback, even though the new rule grants the receiving team the ball at the 30-yard line on a touchback.

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“The risk-reward of putting a guy who can’t put the ball consistently inside the 20-yard line where you want it, or even hit a touchback if that’s the goal, is significant,” Blackburn said.

Teams are still adapting to the new rule, and those with special teams coordinators who have their players well-prepared by Week One will likely hold a substantial advantage. The strategy shift underscores the evolving nature of special teams’ play and the critical importance of precision and versatility in kickoff scenarios.

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