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OTL: Buckle Up – Could Derrick Henry Return Kickoffs?

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By: Darin McCann

Much has been made about the new kickoff rules adopted by the NFL this week — and it includes the very-real possibility of the Henry Express doing his best Jacoby Jones impersonation.

Jonas Shaffer of the Baltimore Banner wrote an interesting piece on the rule, and how the Ravens might attack it.

“Under the new league rules, the high-speed collisions that once made kickoffs so dangerous will be limited, while returns will be incentivized,” per Shaffer. “Standard kicks will still be set up at a team’s 35-yard line, but everything else will look different. The 10 kick coverage players will line up at the opposing 40, with five on each side of the field. The return team will have at least nine blockers lined up in the ‘setup zone’ between the 30- and 35-yard lines, with at least seven of those players touching the 35.

“Up to two returners will be allowed inside the 20,” Shaffer continued. “Only the kicker and two returners will be allowed to move until the ball hits the ground or is touched by a returner inside the 20. Any kick that reaches the end zone in the air can be returned, or the receiving team can opt for a touchback and possession at the 30. Any kick that reaches the end zone in the air and goes out of bounds or out of the end zone also will result in a touchback at the 30. If a ball hits a returner or the ground before the end zone and goes into the end zone, a touchback will be at the 20 or the kick can be returned. Any kick received in the field of play must be returned.”

So, basically, there’s a very good chance that teams will be looking for running backs to take this role, as the play could develop with traditional blocking schemes to break through a cluttered line in search of home runs. The Athletic’s Ted Nguyen had a first thought that struck home.

The Ravens already have a capable running back in terms of returning kickoffs in Justice Hill, Shaffer pointed out. And, while he still apparently has some work to do on his recovery from knee surgery, Keaton Mitchell could eventually become an explosive and dangerous weapon back there. But what if — and humor me here — the Ravens are in a tough spot in a big game and want to put the proverbial “bull in a China shop” back there to make a play?

“But, if the Ravens want to maximize the value of a star whose rushing workload will probably fall in Baltimore, they might at least consider giving their unnaturally fast, strong and coordinated star the kind of takeoff lanes (and relatively safe conditions) that he could have only ever dreamed of,” said Shaffer.

I am in. I am so in.

Remember when Ed Reed would go back to field punts that required sure hands or if the Ravens just needed a spark? I would find myself standing up just in anticipation of what could be.

Watching Derrick Henry drag six NFL players for 10 yards before bursting free and running for a touchdown would be an absolute blast.

Much of the Flock has been sweating the free-agent exodus of talent from the team while watching little in terms of talent coming back. And, yeah, I’m there, too.

But the oddsmakers aren’t too scared off to this point, and as my dad always said to me, “There’s a reason those casinos are so big. They’re smarter than us.”

“The Chiefs, Ravens and 49ers will have the NFL’s best records in 2024, if the betting odds are to be believed,” wrote Michael David Smith.

“Kansas City, Baltimore and San Francisco each had win totals of over/under 11.5 in the odds that were released by DraftKings,” he continued. “The 11.5 number is the highest in the league.

“The Chiefs are -110 favorites to go over 11.5 wins while the Ravens are +110 underdogs and the 49ers are +125 underdogs, so the Chiefs are currently the odds-on favorites to have the NFL’s best record.”

If you haven’t had a chance yet, read this piece by our own Derek Arnold on the Key Bridge catastrophe. It hits home, and is as raw and genuine a perspective I have read the past few days.

The Key Bridge Wasn’t “Just a Bridge” to Us


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Originally posted on Russell Street Report