Bears believe Velus Jones will benefit from new kickoff rule – NBC Sports Chicago


LAKE FOREST, Illinois – The NFL's new kickoff rules have teams thinking creatively about how to best set up their offenses while outrunning their opponents. The Bears have already said they will look at how new punter Torey Taylor can be a weapon in the game. Special teams coordinator Richard Hightower also selected a potential return man who could benefit most from the new rules.

“You can only think about a guy like Wells Jones,” Hightower said. “A guy like that, with his type of skill, with the speed and power he has, and him coming at you at full speed, it's like a freaking freight train running in front of you.”

The Bears drafted Jones in 2022 because they believed he could be an impact player on special teams. However, several buried penalties in high leverage moments forced the team to turn to other options at that stage of the game. The team gave him another chance at kick return last season and he developed into an explosive option. Among players with at least 10 returns last season, Jones' 27.2 yards/return ranked second, behind only Kavonte Turpin, who had 29.2 yards/return.

Under the new rule, kickers will try to place the ball inside the “landing zone” from the 20-yard line to the end zone. Any kick that falls into the zone must be returned, but if a ball falls into the zone and dribbles into the endzone it may be returned for a touchback at the 20-yard line. However, if the kick is first landed in the endzone, it can be downed for a touchback at the 30-yard line. Balls that go out of the back of the endzone will also come out of the 30. If a fielder falls short of the kickoff zone, it will be punted and the ball will go to the 40-yard line.

Most important for returners: No one on the field other than returners may move until the ball is caught, or hits the ground (except the kicker, while he is kicking, of course). This should yield higher returns and bigger returns.

“He's going to get a chance to touch the ball three or four times a game,” Hightower said. “We all know he is a very dynamic player with the ball in his hands. But this new rule, because of the landing zone, because of the league encouraging returns, it's going to have a really good impact on not only our entire return team but for a guy like that to really change the game.

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