If it seems like there have been more touchbacks this season, that’s exactly the case. After the league moved kickoffs up to the 35-yard line in 2011, ostensibly to cut down on the number of returns to lower the injury, touchbacks have increased dramatically while returns have plummeted.
Especially this year.
Through three weeks, only 35.5 percent of kickoffs have been returned, the lowest percentage at this point in a season in NFL history. Last year at this point, 50.9 percent of kickoffs were returned.
“Guys are kicking the ball further than they’ve ever kicked it, but they’re also kicking it higher than they’ve ever kicked it,” Giants kicker Josh Brown said. “And it’s not like they’re just driving the ball with no hang time. We’re seeing hang times on kickoffs that are like small punts — 4.2, 4.3, 4.4 seconds. You’ve never seen that at any time when we were kicking off from the 30.”