New NFL Kickoff Rules Give Vikings a New X-Factor

Minnesota Vikings
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Back in March 2024, the NFL announced a major rule change to kickoffs. A full list of the NFL kickoff rule changes can be found here, but essentially, there’s going to be a lot more kick returns compared to previous years. It will essentially mirror the XFL style for kickoffs and impact the Minnesota Vikings’ kick returner group.

Get ready for a massive increase in kick returns this NFL season

In a recent interview on Wednesday, head coach of the New York Jets, Robert Saleh, talked about how kick returners are going to touch the ball over 100 times a year. A significant increase from the last few years.

With the new kickoff rules and these kick returners, they’re going to touch the ball over 100 times a year, which is significant. At least that’s what we’re anticipating. And a guy like him, he’s still young, obviously coming off his injuries, but we’re excited to have him aboard.

Robert Saleh – Head Coach of the New York Jets (NBC Sports)

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For reference, not a single player returned more than 30 kickoffs in 2023 and 35 in 2022. Kick returners in this upcoming season should see almost three times the amount of returns. Something NFL fans and kick returners will certainly enjoy this year.

What does this mean for Minnesota Vikings’ kick returner Kene Nwangwu?

Current Minnesota Vikings’ kick returner Kene Nwangwu was drafted by former general manager Rick Spielman back in 2021, and quickly made his presence known in the NFL with three kick return touchdowns in his first two seasons.

This might seem like a lot, but Nwangwu’s three kick return touchdowns is already T-31st most in the NFL history. For reference, former Minnesota Vikings’ kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson is No. 1 with a total of nine kick return touchdowns.

Despite no kick return touchdowns last season, Nwangwu continues to grade extremely well in kick returns according to Pro Football Focus (PFF). His career kick return PFF grades (* minimum 10 return attempts):

  • 2021: 79.7 (1st of 43)*
  • 2022: 70.4 (13th of 41)*
  • 2023: 68.4 (2nd of 23)*

As you can see, Nwangwu is one of the top kick returners in the NFL. Although he hasn’t been able to crack the running back rotation over the last three seasons, he certainly has proved he’s deserving a roster spot as a kick returner.

Related: Could Too Much Torque on J.J. McCarthy’s Arm be a Concern for Vikings?

There have been doubts over the last couple seasons over whether or not Nwangwu is deserving of a roster spot, given how devalued kick returners had become. With these new rule changes, however, it’s safe to say that Nwangwu will be making the 53-man roster and make a much larger impact on games than ever before.

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