Rams ST Coordinator names key players to solving befuddling KO challenge

LA Rams ST Coordinator Chase Blackburn opens up about the strategy Rams will take to master new NFL kickoff rules, and names key player to solve the puzzle.
NFL Combine, Joshua Karty
NFL Combine, Joshua Karty / Kevin Sabitus/GettyImages
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Blackburn displays solid command of new KO rules

Perhaps one of the goals in my mind over the way ST Coordinator Chase Blackburn addresses the media over the new NFL kickoff rules is not so much the actual tactics that the team will deploy as a result of the new rules, but the depth of his understanding of the new rules. It was very apparent in this press conference that he was deeply immersed in the impacts and strategies required to succeed in this new environment. So, let's get back to his comments, and I will share more detailed information to expand on his commentary:

(16:20) - "The way I describe it is that it's almost like a fourth (down) and one (yard to go) play"

Blackburn reiterates and emphasizes how both offensive and defensive concepts will play much larger roles in the planning of kickoff coverage and return plays this season. Blackburn adeptly describes how the optimal coverage unit plan will create trail and fill roles that will emulate linebacker and defensive back players on coverage units to ensure that if the ball carrier penetrates to the second level, the coverage unit has pre-planned to have defenders there to make the tackle.

(17:28) - "Once we get into training camp"

This is an admission of whiteboard tactics and analysis so far. In essence, this is the architectural blueprints or the engineering schematics only. The true proof of any conceptual strategy will only be realized when the pads go on and players can show how well or flawed tactics play out on the football field.

(17:45) - "Whoever can get in front of this the fastest, that's probably going to have an advantage to win one or two games early in the season . . ."

I believe that Blackburn may be a bit conservative in this assessment. Even as the NFL is truly a copycat league, I do not anticipate the ability of all 32 NFL teams to pivot towards successful NFL special team strategies instantly. Whether some teams err in terms of the type of personnel used in the kickoff game, or whether teams are reluctant to abandon strategies that they invested so many hours throughout training camp, I suspect that differing strategies to the kickoff, whether coverage or return units, could have an impact as long as into Week 6.

The LA Rams may have an advantage in adapting to the new kickoff rule because, quite frankly, the team is going with a new kicker and return specialist this season. Because the team has new personnel, they may have a jump on embracing the new tactics required to succeed under the new kickoff rules.

Oh, and one other thing. Do not look for OLB/DE Jared Verse to return kickoffs in 2024.

As always, thanks for reading.