How changes to kickoffs will impact the Minnesota Vikings

(Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images) Marcus Sherels
(Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images) Marcus Sherels /

The Minnesota Vikings are one of the best teams in the league on kickoff returns, but some new rules will change the way franchises handle special teams.

Percy Harvin, Cordarrelle Patterson, and Marcus Sherels are three of the names from recent Minnesota Vikings history who have shown to be excellent when returning kickoffs during NFL games.

Giving the Vikings excellent field position or even returning a kickoff for a touchdown can be a game-changing play, altering the momentum of a contest in favor of the team making the big play on special teams.

However, the NFL has handed down some new rules regarding kickoffs that are supposed to increase player safety after receiving over 75% support from the franchise owners at the Spring League Meeting.

Check out a list of the rules shared by the official Twitter account of NFL Football Operations.

The top rule will slow down the “gunners” who get a running start on kickoffs and contain the edges of the field while pinching in toward the player returning the kickoff. This rule will mostly benefit the team returning the kickoff.

Rule change number 2 dictates where players must line up along the line of scrimmage on a kickoff. This rule change should have little to no impact on the coverage unit other than to slow speeds and hopefully reduce the impact of hits.

The third rule change is in place to stop wedges and group blocking. There have been numerous alterations to that rule in the past, and now even the two-man blocking wedges have been eliminated. The coverage team benefits from this rule.

Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota Vikings /

Minnesota Vikings

A cease-fire on blocking before the kickoff is active is put into place in the fourth rule change. Now, blocking can only really happen when the return is happening, not preemptively.

Finally, if the ball hits the ground in the end zone before touching a member of the returning team, it will be automatically considered a touchback. This seems to include kickoffs that initially land in the field of play and bounce into the end zone.

On the surface, these rules seem like a bit much, but they should actually help teams on returns and likely increase both the number of touchbacks and average yardage on kickoff returns.

It will be interesting to see how these rules play out. On paper, they don’t seem significant enough to make kickoffs less fun or eliminate one of the most exciting plays that can happen during a football game.

Next: Projecting the Vikings' final 2018 roster (Post-draft)

At this time, it isn’t known who will be returning kicks for the Minnesota Vikings during the 2018 NFL season, but these new rules ensure that it will be a bit different for both teams and fans moving forward.