Wednesday, October 9, 2013

8-2-1 Kickoff Return: The Bandwagon is Growing!

Great article here by former Dolphins and Jets Special Teams Coordinator Mike Westoff on SI's MMQB  talking about his idea of a 8-2-1 Kickoff Return.  Duece from the Football is Life blog was the first one to come up with the radical idea of the 8-2-1 Kickoff Return and I did an article on the 8-2-1 Kickoff Return here back in February proposing it as a solution to the NFL's safety problem.  This idea that was initially dismissed as a gimmick is now starting to gain serious consideration as a viable solution to the NFL's safety problem as well as a way to restore the importance of the kickoff return in professional football.

Check out the 8-2-1 diagram from the article by Westoff:

Here is the 8-2-1 Kickoff Return by Duece with the high school kickoff line at the 40:

Westoff proposed to move the kickoff line from the 35 to the 25-yard line because touchbacks, although they are reducing the number of high-speed collisions to make the NFL a little bit safer, are boring and are a detriment to our great sport.  The 8-2-1 Kickoff Return allows you to keep the excitement of the kick return plus it reduces the number of high-speed collisions with the eight men in the front able to execute their blocks by "covering" their man much like a defensive back would cover a wide receiver.  Essentially the kickoff return will look more like a punt return.

Peter King said in this week's Monday Morning Quarterback that, "whoever advances this cause will have to have some proof or logic that it won't get more players hurt."  The logic is this: aligning players closer to one another reduces the speed and force of the collisions.  Force equals mass times velocity, and reducing the velocity of the players by shortening the distance between the players will also reduce the force of the collisions.  Good coaches have already put this concept into practice by having players in close proximity to one another when doing tackling drills.  This minimizes the force of the collisions and reduces the number of practice injuries while still allowing you to practice proper tackling technique.

Besides the safety advantage, the 8-2-1 allows for better production with more yards per return due to less whiffs and easier blocks than the standard kick return.  Most people use some form of the 8-2-1 for "Hands" team when expecting an onsides kick, but post a reply or send an email if you have made regular use of the 8-2-1 this season.  Now that people like Mike Westoff and Peter King are on board, I look forward to seeing the 8-2-1 Kickoff Return becoming an important part of the future of our sport.


  1. We have used it all season - past three weeks teams have stopped kicking deep - I don't have exact numbers but I would say our average starting position is the -40

  2. My goal was to have our offense start on average at the 40. And our average was the 33. I have used the 8-2-1 return this season. We had one return TD. The kids loved this return. Although I was hoping it would 've been more effective. Even with our best playmaker back deep, he still struggled to cover enough ground just to locate the ball. Which ended the offense in many bad starting positions. I may have to tweak some things about this return. Only because it wasn't as effective as I wanted it to be. Would not recommend anyone to try this return.

  3. Coaching 4th graders this year. Seems like a good choice: safer & more effective. Wondering if anyone has used with this age group and is willing to share any pointers?
    What yardage you place blockers and returner, any tips on teaching this blocking method to 4th graders, how well it worked for you, etc. Any and all feedback is greatly appreciated Coaches. Please advise & thank you.

  4. I picked up this idea from reading Deuce's blog and implemented it this season for my 13 year old team. We had three kick return TDs early in the season (although we had studs back there returning). After that, teams just tried onsiding to us the rest of the season. Ease to guess our average starting position was the 40. I did not use a single offensive lineman on this team and I adjusted our front 8 for onside kicks (similar to the diagram above).

  5. I returned 2 tds this year out the formation om varsity in high school. It works and our starting field position average was about the 41.5 yd line