Report: five players to watch new NFL kickoff rules…

Report: five players to watch new NFL kickoff rules…

Harrison Butker Doubles Down on Controversial Comments About Women

For the 2024 season, the NFL is drastically altering its kickoff regulations in an attempt to improve player safety while simultaneously increasing returns and reintroducing play into the mix.

The kickoff teams will be positioned five yards apart from one another; only the kicker and returner may move prior to the returner touching the ball; and the kicking team will suffer heavier penalties for touchbacks. More returns—possibly even more large returns—will be the eventual result.

It will also have an effect on a few specific players around the league.

With the new criteria in mind, let’s examine five players to watch this season.

Kansas City Chiefs DB Justin Reid

Reid will be interesting since the Chiefs are thinking of employing him as a kickoff specialist, which would put an additional defender on the field to cover kicks and shield kicker Harrison Butker from potential injuries sustained from making tackles.

Reid may be a really special weapon on the Chiefs’ special teams squad because he has expertise kicking the ball and has done so in games. If this is successful, teams may be more inclined to look for position players who are also capable at kicking.

Kansas City Chiefs considering new role for controversial Harrison Butker  in 2024 season | Mirror Online - Mirror Online

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver/back Cordarrelle Patterson

Statistically, one of the greatest kickoff returners in NFL history is Patterson, and the Steelers signed him as a free agency as soon as the new rules were approved.

He was a wide receiver and running back for new offensive coordinator Arthur Smith, which also helps. But Patterson’s best chance to have an impact in Pittsburgh will likely come during the special teams game.

It might have a big effect as well. In order to produce any of their attack, the Steelers have needed field position given the status of their offense in recent years. For a club lacking big-time offensive playmakers and with two new quarterbacks (Russell Wilson and Justin Fields) and an offensive coordinator (Smith), having a kickoff return specialist who can potentially flip the field could be a game-changer.

Buffalo Bills wide receiver Daequan Hardy.

Hardy was selected by the Bills in the sixth round of the 2024 draft, mainly as a defensive back, although he could be a wild card in the special teams battle.

Despite being tiny (5 feet 9 inches, 182 pounds) for a wide receiver, he has outstanding mobility and was a productive punt returner at Penn State, returning two punts for touchdowns in 2023.

Although he wasn’t used as much on kickoff returns, he still has promise, and as a rookie, it might be his way onto the field.

Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker

Due to the overwhelming focus on the new regulations, returners have been the topic of discussion. However, kickers will always be important in this, and Tucker, the top kicker in the NFL right now, will have more chances to make an impression.

Under the previous rules, he was mainly recognized for his accuracy, clutch ability in crucial situations, and powerful leg to score touchbacks. However, he was also an incredible directional kicker who could put the ball with extreme precision.

When it comes to being able to maintain the ball in the field of play and pin returners in a corner of the field, drop it deep enough into the “target” window without placing it in the end zone, that will still have some value.

Harrison Butker - Wikipedia

Green Bay Packers DB Keisean Nixon

Nixon helped the Packers win the kickoff return game even before the new rules were implemented. Over the last two seasons, the Packers have returned more balls than any other team in the league, and Nixon has led the league in return yards each season with numerous returns of forty yards or more.

Although the potential impact on returns is a tremendous bonus, they re-signed him this offseason to a substantial contract (three years, $18M), signaling that they expect to give him a big role in their secondary.

Having one of the top returners in the league will provide the Packers a significant advantage because the new rules may make returns easier in addition to increasing the number of returns allowed in the game.

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