Dolphins could use Tyreek Hill or De'Von Achane on kickoffs and add new dimension

New rule on kickoffs emphasizes speed and gives faster players an advantage on kickoff returns under new rule that was adopted from last season's XFL

Tyreek Hill racing with the ball in the 2024 NFL Pro Bowl flag football game. Hill could be utilizing his blazing speed on kickoff returns after a new rule was passed by NFL Owners last week.
Tyreek Hill racing with the ball in the 2024 NFL Pro Bowl flag football game. Hill could be utilizing his blazing speed on kickoff returns after a new rule was passed by NFL Owners last week. / James Gilbert/GettyImages

Mike McDaniel, the mad scientist who doubles as the Miami Dolphins head coach, has a new formula to use on kickoff returns that the team has to at least take under consideration. Between McDaniel and special teams coach Danny Crossman, they have to be smiling like the cats that ate the canary as they know that they have additional weapons that can put the special back in the special teams.

Imagine having Tyreek Hill or De'Von Achane on the kickoff return team and allowing them to have a head start against the kicking team wherein they can catch the ball freely without having players surrounding them and they get to make the first move down the field before the kicking team can even get off the line of scrimmage.

While it seems to be surreal, it also appears to be an unfair advantage for the Dolphins. The team kicking off, team lines up at the Dolphins' 40, but cannot move until the ball is actually received by the returner, who has blockers lined up five yards away at the 35-yard line.

Watch the video below to see what it did in the XFL last season.

Under a new rule passed last week at the NFL Owners' Meetings in Orlando, kickoff teams can no longer run down the field to catch the ball carrier when the ball leaves the tee or the kicker's foot. The kicking team has to remain on the line until the ball carrier catches the ball, thus giving the ball carrier a head start in going the other way.

The ball will be kicked off from the 35-yard line, just like usual, with players lining up five yards from one another as referenced above. The blockers for the return team will line up at their 35, while the team kicking off lines up five yards away,

The coverage team will no longer have an advantage in getting a running start downfield and circling the return man before the ball is even caught. This rule was implemented to reduce player collisions and increase safety concerns. Return men will line up on their five-yard line and must return kickoffs that fall within the landing zone.

Hill and Achane are clearly the two fastest Dolphins. Can you imagine what a special team's returns would be like if you gave Hill, who is perhaps the most electrifying player in the league, a head start and not allow him to be surrounded by opposing tacklers while receiving a kickoff? The punishment to opposing teams that kick Hill or Achane could be devastating. This gives Crossman a whole new dimension.

Not taking anything away from Braxton Berrios, who does an admirable job as a kickoff return man, but if you have Hill or Achane, or both lined up on the five-yard line and no one can move to try and tackle them until they actually catch the ball, that gives an insane advantage to the return team when you have that kind of speed on the back line.

According to New Orleans Saints special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi, who helped raise the rule change, Rizzi believes that you will see fewer traditional return men and that teams will try to use their fastest players on the return team to give them an extra advantage. Rizzi was the Dolphins' special teams coach under previous regimes. Rizzi spoke with the Palm Beach Post and the rest of the national media last week when the rule passed.

""You may see some players on kickoff returns and kickoffs that you haven't seen. Those guys that maybe you were afraid to play because of injury risks? You are going to see those guys out there. I think that's the beautiful part about this.""

Darren Rizzi, Saints special teams coach

Rizzi spoke specifically to the Dolphins' speedy players and believes that Miami should benefit from the institution of the new rule.

""Listen, I think the more weapons you have, the better this model is going to be for you. I could tell you right now, ahead of time, that someone's going to get five or six more touches a game, whoever they use back there. But if you had players like Tyreek Hill and Jayden Waddle and Raheem Mostert, all those guys, those are dangerous players.""

Darren Rizzi, Saints special teams coach

Miami only had 18 kickoff returns all season in 2023. That number could inflate to 60 or more, according to Joe Schad of the Palm Beach Post, as players will be compelled to return the ball and they get the extra advantage of being untouched and unthreatened until they actually catch the ball.

Should opposing kickers elect to take the return out of the game, they can simply blast the ball through the end zone, thus rendering the return impossible. However, if that happens, the offense takes the ball over at their 30-yard line and not the 20-yard line as in years past. Either way, the receiving team gets a good starting position. Additionally, not all kickers can blast every kick through the end zone.

Suffice it to say, Hill, Waddle, or Achane are going to touch the football more often on special teams. What that does to Berrios' roster spot remains to be seen. Berrios is still a formidable slot receiver, but his primary job was as a kickoff and punt return man.