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Goodbye kickoff returns?

Brandon Tate #19 of the New England Patriots carries the opening kickoff for a touchdown as Josh Brown #3 of the St. Louis Rams runs after him. If the league changes the kickoff rules, this kind of thing won't be happening much anymore.
Brandon Tate #19 of the New England Patriots carries the opening kickoff for a touchdown as Josh Brown #3 of the St. Louis Rams runs after him. If the league changes the kickoff rules, this kind of thing won't be happening much anymore.

The NFL Competition Committee wants to change the way kickoffs are done in the league. In a conference call with the press this morning, the committee revealed its proposal to move kickoffs to the 35-yard-line and put touchbacks at the 25-yard-line. If approved, it represents a big change to the game and effectively takes away the kickoff return and return men as part of a team's offensive approach.

As for the motives behind this recommendation: safety. The league is making an effort to do something about the injury rate on kick returns.

What about the impact on returns and coverage? Aaron Schatz from Football Outsiders points out that last year 28 percent of kicks were between 65 and 69 yards, all of which would land in the end zone as potential touchbacks. Schatz also notes that with coverage units five yards closer the typical returner might be more likely to settle for a touchback. 

As far as the Rams go, Josh Brown's average kickoff was 66.7 yards, meaning a whole lot of his kickoffs would land in the end zone under the new system...putting much less stress on the Rams coverage team. The average Rams return was 21.8 yards last  season.