Ravens special teams coach Chris Horton adjusting to new kickoff rules

OWINGS MILLS — The new NFL rules on kickoffs could alter the dynamic of special teams.

Ravens assistant coach Chris Horton said the team will be preparing throughout the offseason to take advantage of the changes.

“You know, it’s something new to our league,” Horton said. “And I’ve talked to the players about this – we’re going to build this thing together because we don’t really know what it’s going to look like. We’ve seen a video from the XFL, and we understand what that looks like. But we actually have to get out here, and we have to practice it ourselves to kind of see what those angles look like and see what we can run and what we can’t run.

“So, as we go through it this offseason, we’re going to be putting stuff in. We’re going to be taking stuff out. Then, when it’s all said and done, and it’s put together, I do believe it’s going to be an exciting play, and hopefully we’re on the exciting end of it having a lot of success.”

Under the new rule, 10 players on the kicking team and at least nine members on the receiving team will line up 5 yards apart. The players are not allowed to begin running until the ball gets to the returner, which should slow the speed and reduce the impact during the play.

Only the kicker and one or two kickoff returners will line up separately from the players who are 5 yards apart.

The kicker will kick the ball from his 35-yard line. Ten of his teammates will line up on the other team’s 40-yard line. The receiving team’s nine or 10 blockers will line up on their 35-yard line. The kick must fall between the 20-yard line and the goal line.

A kick that goes out of bounds or is short of the 20-yard line will be awarded to the receiving team at the 40. A kick that sails into the end zone for a touchback will go to the receiving team’s 30-yard line.

It should create opportunities for returners because there should be more space to run.

“I think it’s still kind of an experiment because you really don’t know what you’re getting until you get out there and you actually put the guys in those situations, right?” Horton said. “So, we can work on the drills in football school and the kickoff coverage drills, but until you can get 11 guys out there, against 11-on-11, and really see and feel the play and being out there [and] you ask the players, ‘How do you feel? How does that feel? If we want you to do this, can you do that?’ And, they’re like ‘Ah, coach…’ Then we keep working those things. “


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