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How the NFL’s new kicking rule could affect the Carolina Panthers

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By: Walker Clement

Photo by John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Kickoffs are (maybe) back. Will that change anything for the Panthers roster?

The NFL voted today to introduce a major change to kickoffs for the 2024 season. You can read more about the changes and what they mean for the play and the league in general in SB Nation’s explainer by our old friend James Dator.

The ultimate intention of this rule change is to increase the amount of kick returns while decreasing the amount of injuries sustained during kick returns. Previous rule changes had decreased, for example, the overall number of concussions on kick returns by simply decreasing the number of kick returns. The concussion/return ratio apparently remained relatively consistent.

For the Carolina Panthers, this paragraph from Dator’s article may prove the most relevant:

Ultimately we’ll see return styles alter as a result. Instead of players reaching full speed and looking for a hole, they’ll now need to read blocking more akin to a running back.

Wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette and running back Raheem Blackshear are currently the two most experienced return men on the team. This analysis would suggest that Blackshear may have a leg up on winning the return duties out of camp.

It is also possible the team could look to have a different style of athlete back there all together. Think somebody with demonstrated success in the screen game who may have had trouble gaining traction elsewhere on the field. This could open up opportunities for such former Panthers as Laviska Shenault Jr, D.J. Moore, or Christian McCaffrey to make game altering plays outside of the usual offensive structure.

Originally posted on Cat Scratch Reader – All Posts