How will new XFL-style kickoff rules impact Seahawks?

May 8, 2024, 3:38 PM | Updated: 10:15 pm

Seattle Seahawks Dee Eskridge 49ers 2023...

Dee Eskridge of the Seattle Seahawks returns a kickoff against the 49ers in 2023. (Jane Gershovich/Getty Images)

(Jane Gershovich/Getty Images)

Kickoff returns are expected to be a much bigger part of the game for the Seattle Seahawks and teams across the NFL this season.

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In an effort to increase safety and revive the kick return – which had become a dying aspect of the game in recent seasons – the NFL adopted XFL-style kickoff rules in March.

Under the new rules, 10 players from the kicking team will line up on the return team’s 40-yard line and won’t be allowed to move until the ball lands or is recovered. Also, touchbacks will now be spotted at the 30-yard line instead of the 25-yard line, with the aim of discouraging teams from kicking the ball into the end zone.

Under the old rules last season, 78% of all kickoffs resulted in touchbacks. Under the new rules, the NFL estimates that number to drop to around 40-50%.

During Seattle Sports’ Bump and Stacy on Tuesday, former NFL receiver Michael Bumpus wondered how the new kickoff rules could impact the Seahawks.

“I wonder how that influenced the way that they drafted and the guys that they bring in for tryouts and minicamps and all that good stuff, because I think this can be a big part of the game,” Bumpus said. “The NFL wants to bring (kickoff returns) back.”

Last season, Seattle ranked fourth in the NFL with 26.2 yards per kick return. However, 17 of the Seahawks’ 26 returns belonged to running back DeeJay Dallas, who departed in free agency this offseason to sign with the Arizona Cardinals. With Dallas gone, there’s an opportunity for other players to take over the primary kick-return duties.

Wide receiver Dee Eskridge is the most natural candidate, having returned eight kicks for an average of 28.0 yards per return last season. Wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr., who signed with Seattle in April, could be another option after returning nine kicks for an average of 27.7 yards over the past two seasons with the Carolina Panthers. Running back Kenny McIntosh also has return experience from his college career at Georgia, where he returned 14 kicks for an average of 26.8 yards.

Wide receiver Tyler Lockett was Seattle’s primary kick returner from 2015 to 2019, but hasn’t returned a kick since 2020.

“Maybe there’s a place for Kenny McIntosh right there,” Bumpus said. “That’s why I was entertaining bringing (running back) Rashaad Penny back, because we know what he did (returning) at San Diego State. This is huge. … If you can get one or two (good) returns a game, you can change this all up for your offense. … Let’s see what they put back there.”

Listen to the full conversation from Tuesday’s Bump and Stacy in the podcast at this link or in the player near the top of this post. Bump and Stacy airs live from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays on Seattle Sports.

More Seattle Seahawks coverage

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