Schneider: How Shenault fits Seahawks’ special teams and offense

Apr 6, 2024, 9:41 AM | Updated: 9:47 am

Seattle Seahawks Laviska Shenault...

Laviska Shenault Jr. carries the ball against the Seattle Seahawks on Sept. 11, 2022. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

With new kickoff rules in place for the 2024 NFL season, the Seattle Seahawks have added a player that could help them in the return game.

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Earlier this week, the Seahawks signed receiver Laviska Shenault, a 2020 second-round pick who has spent his four-year career in Jacksonville and Carolina. He has recent experience as a kickoff returner, too, averaging over 27 yards per return over the last two years.

“That’s one of the primary reasons we signed Laviska,” Seahawks general manager John Schneider told Seattle Sports’ Wyman and Bob on Thursday. ” … We’ve been talking to him, he’s a great returner and he’s a really powerful dude like (receiver Dee Eskridge), so we were like man, let’s go for it.”

The kickoff is completely changed this year as the NFL adopted rules from the former XFL.

With the new rules, kickers and returners are the only players who can move before the ball is kicked off. For the team kicking off, the 10 non-kickers line up on the return team’s side of the field at the 40-yard line. For the return team, at least nine players will be between their 35- and 30-yard lines in what’s called the “setup zone.”

The ball will be fielded between the 20-yard line and the goal line and if it goes in the end zone, a touchback will now place the ball at the 30-yard line rather than the 25.

With these new rules, teams need at least two returners. That’s a key difference between these kickoff returns and what the XFL had.

“The XFL deal was one returner. Initially when they were talking about it, a lot of the angst within the special teams coaches community was that if there’s just one returner back there, the ball is going to drop and it’s going to look sloppy, there’s going to be a lot of line drive (kicks). It’s like get the ball on the ground so it’s a jacked up play, which people thought could lead to more injuries and may just look like a sloppier play in general. So having the two returners back there really takes that away,” Schneider said. “… Having the two returners is kind of a way they worked through things.”

With two returners and the different look for both teams, there’s a lot of strategy talk going on with coaches.

“It’s a game-changing play. It’s gonna be a real play,” he said. “I think it’s gonna be fun.”

Schneider likened it to a fastbreak in basketball.

“Your shot goes up, you’re looking for the rebound,” he said. “… You’ve gotta find your target. It’s a big hands thing. It’s gonna be a big hands game because (the blockers and tacklers are) gonna be so close.”

Shenault could also factor in to the Seahawks’ offense, which Schneider is excited about.

“Versatility. He’s that guy that you just give him the ball,” he said. “There was run after the catch stuff in college. We loved him coming out. As soon as you give that guy the ball, he’s incredibly explosive. He played a lot of running back last year. As a matter of fact, I think he split time between the running back room and the receiver room (in Carolina). Right now, he’s gonna be in our receiving room. He’ll come in there and compete with that group. It’s gonna be a fun group.”

Listen to the full interview from this week’s show at this link or in the audio player near the top of this story. Catch The John Schneider Show live every Thursday at 4 p.m. on Seattle Sports.

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