Cowboys' Joһn Fаssel: New kіckoffs wіll 'feel lіke а reаl footbаll plаy'; KаVontаe Turpіn could explode - Sport News

Cowboys’ Joһn Fаssel: New kіckoffs wіll ‘feel lіke а reаl footbаll plаy’; KаVontаe Turpіn could explode

The Cowboys felt like they found a secret weapon when they signed KaVontae Turpin away from the USFL after his MVP season of 2022. While he went on to make the Pro Bowl his first year in Dallas, it has felt like Turpin has still been kept largely under wraps, thanks to a set of rules that somewhat limited the blazing speed that had made him so dangerous.

With revised kickoff rules in place for 2024, Cowboys special teams coordinator John Fassel believes the league is about to see what the 27-year-old is truly capable of.

Fans got a breathtaking preview in a 2022 preseason game against the Chargers, when Turpin returned both a punt and a kickoff for scores.

Since then, Turpin hasn’t taken a kick back to the house. In fact, he’s barely gotten to try. Last season, he logged just 10 kickoff returns the whole year.

But… his per-return average was a jaw-dropping 29.2 yards, the highest of any player with double-digit returns.

That could become the norm rather than the exception, now that kick returns are set to make a return of their own.

“It was a dying play,” Fassel said Thursday on Good Morning Football. “And it feels like it’s back, and it’s back in a big way. I must say, I’m proud of the NFL for being bold, because this is a big change.”

Touchbacks last season were up a whopping 373% over what they had been just 14 years prior, and in the name of payer safety, kickoffs themselves had become a ceremonial formality.

Fassel was instrumental in developing the new rules, which were approved by owners last week at the annual league meeting.

“We were losing the play,” he lamented, “and there’s a lot of history behind the kickoff and kickoff return.”

Just not much recent history.

There were just four kickoff-return touchdowns leaguewide in all of 2023. The last one for Dallas came on Thanksgiving Day 2021, when Tony Pollard brought one back 100 yards versus the Raiders. Prior to that, if you take out CeeDee Lamb’s half-field scoring dash after scooping up an onside kick attempt against the 49ers in 2020, the Cowboys’ last kick return for a TD had come from Felix Jones.

In 2008.

Now, kickers will essentially be incentivized to keep the ball in play rather than blast it through the end zone. Tacklers and blockers will start closer to one another but be forced to remain stationary until the returner has the ball.

Gone are the high-speed collisions and injuries that often result from ten cover men sprinting full-steam and face-first into a wall of charging blockers. And with no one getting a head start on the play, a speedster like Turpin should suddenly have the advantage. (The Steelers, not coincidentally, signed veteran return ace Cordarrelle Patterson just hours after the new rule was approved.)

The NFL’s new-look kickoffs will be on trial in 2024 but could remain permanent past that. And the rule could trickle down to all levels of the sport.

“If this thing gets adopted by college football, high school football, the lower levels, I think we’ve done a great thing for the game of football,” Fassel said. “We’ve made it better, we’ve made it safer, and I just can’t wait to see where it goes. I think everybody’s really going to love it. It’s a unique look at the start, but once that ball gets caught, man, it’s game on and it’s going to feel like a real football play.”

And if all the stars align, the secret weapon the Cowboys have kept stashed for two years could be that real play’s next real poster child.

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