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Ravens Experimenting With New Kickoff Rules Strategies

Special Teams Coordinator Chirs Horton
Special Teams Coordinator Chirs Horton

Last year, Ravens Special Teams Coordinator Chris Horton spent a whole lot of time screaming at practice for no reason.

The Ravens pride themselves on gaining an advantage on special teams, and they practice it more than most teams. But when it came to gamedays, that work on kickoffs was often for nothing because teams either used a fair catch or just took a knee in the end zone.

The NFL's new kickoff rule, which makes the play much more compact and will encourage many more kickoff returns (full explanation here), is a game-changer for Horton, his unit, and the entire league. It's the Wild West, and everyone is trying to find the golden answers.

Horton says he and the Ravens are in the experimentation phase during Organized Team Activities.

"We're going to build this thing together, because we don't really know what it's going to look like," Horton said. "We've seen video from the XFL, and we understand what that looks like. But, we actually have to get out here, and we have to practice it ourselves to kind of see what those angles look like and see what we can run and what we can't run.

"As we go through it this offseason, we're going to be putting stuff in. We're going to be taking stuff out. I do believe it's going to be an exciting play, and hopefully we're on the exciting end of it, having a lot of success."

Horton said the Ravens could end up using bigger personnel than previously because there's not as much of a speed component to coverage. Defensive backs could be replaced by linebackers, which could impact roster construction.

"When you think about it, it's almost like a defensive and offensive play," Horton said. "They're within five yards from each other. So, I could see us using a lot of our bigger outside linebackers on this phase because they're good with hand-to-hand combat. They're physical players."

The Ravens took the field Monday for the start of Organized Team Activities at the Under Armour Performance Center.

The Ravens do have an idea of who their returner will be, even with the departure of two-time Pro Bowl returner Devin Duvernay to the Jacksonville Jaguars in free agency.

This offseason, the Ravens signed wide receiver and Baltimore native Deonte Harty, who made the Pro Bowl as a rookie returner in 2019 with the New Orleans Saints. Harty was not at OTA practice on Thursday, but Horton is anxious to see what will do returning kicks under the new rules.

"I think this guy – he's electric," Horton said. "You like to have a guy with some experience so that you're not really relying on young guys, especially in the punt return game.

"I'm excited about him. I know the coaches are. The players are. When I talk to the guys, some of the veteran guys, those guys ask, 'Is that… the guy who used to be on the Saints?' I say, 'Yeah, man, that's the little returner from the Saints.' So, he's a well-known and respected returner in this league, and we love him."

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