June 24, 2024

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As the NFL’s cutdown day looms approximately five months away, speculation arises regarding the future of certain players. Questions arise about Lewis Cine’s security due to his first-round draft status, as well as the fate of quarterbacks like Nick Mullens and Jaren Hall when a rookie joins the team.

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While surprise cuts are not uncommon, some may have expected running back Kene Nwangwu to be released after training camp. As a kick return specialist with minimal impact on offense, his roster spot seemed precarious, especially considering the diminishing significance of kick returns in the game. However, the approval of new kickoff rules by the NFL may have altered this outlook.

In response to the league’s efforts to prioritize player safety, the kickoff game had become increasingly marginalized, prompting discussions about its potential elimination. Yet, inspired by the rules adopted by the XFL, the NFL has opted for a more engaging yet still safe approach to kickoffs.

Under the new rules, all players, excluding the kicker and returner, line up across from each other but remain stationary until the ball is caught by the returner. The option of a fair catch is eliminated, and if a touchback occurs, the ball is moved to the 30-yard line. These changes are expected to lead to more kick-return attempts, potentially transforming players like Nwangwu into crucial team assets.

If Nwangwu finds himself returning the ball multiple times per game under the new rules, his importance to the team would significantly increase. Despite not showcasing his explosiveness in recent seasons, Nwangwu’s past success as a return man could be revitalized by the rule changes, potentially securing his role on the team.

While competition for roster spots remains fierce, Nwangwu’s proficiency in kick returns could solidify his position, especially with other running backs like Aaron Jones and Ty Chandler likely securing spots on the roster. As the 2024 season approaches, Nwangwu appears to be the frontrunner to handle the team’s kickoff returns.

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