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Jaguars special teams coach Heath Farwell talks Brandon McManus signing, new kickoff rules

Jacksonville’s special teams coach spoke to the media at Day 4 of OTAs on Tuesday.

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Day four of OTAs for the Jacksonville Jaguars took place on May 30th. Head coach Doug Pederson and special teams coach Heath Farwell spoke in a pre-practice presser.

Farwell is a former NFL linebacker who helped Seattle win Super Bowl XLVIII as its special teams captain. On Tuesday, the fifth-year coordinator met with Jaguars media for the first time since January and answered questions about Brandon McManus, new kickoff rules, and more.

The league recently announced that kickoff returners can now call for a fair catch within the 25-yard-line and get to advance the ball to the 25. It was implemented in college football since 2018. Farwell said:

It’s gonna be interesting to see how this works out. Obviously us as special teams coaches got together, it wasn't exactly what we were looking for, but as the game evolves, we gotta evolve right there with it.

So, it’s something my assistant and I, Luke Thompson, have really looked into this offseason and we’ll continue to look throughout training camp- what are the keys to it, what are the, you know, we’re gonna have to study all college tape, that’s what they’ve been doing for a couple years, and reaching out to those buddies that are in that game to kinda figure out the tricks to it.

It’s gonna be all new to us. Is it gonna change [anything for us]? Possibly not. You know, like coach [Pederson] mentioned, we got Jamal Agnew, we’re gonna wanna- we wanna return. So we’re gonna try to return as much as we can. Are we gonna fair catch? At times, potentially, but I think if you have a returner like we do you still want that as a big part of the game, it’s a big part of momentum, it was a big part of our season last year down the stretch of flipping the field, giving the ball to the offense on the other side of the 50. It was a huge part of what we did.

On whether it feels like the league is “trying to legislate the kicking game away” from the viewpoint of a special teams coordinator:

I don’t look at it that way, I look at it more it’s a safety issue, they’re trying to figure out another way, if we can prevent one less concussion, I think it’s valuable. And I think as a coach, as a former player, we don’t want those as well. We want it safe for the players. We’d love to keep the tradiational aspect of the game as much as we can, but we have to look at safety, and I agree with that 100%. If we can help the game, we’ll do it.

On Riley Patterson and Brandon McManus:

We were excited to get him. I mean, Riley did a fantastic job last season for us, he was a big part of some big games for us, you know, one of the biggest games in Jaguars history.

But getting the opportunity to add Brandon- Brandon, you know, he had reached out to me, so it’s a guy that wanted to play here. I think that just kind of gives you the picture of where the culture’s gone. You know, when you have players that are free agents after getting released and say, ‘hey, coach, I would love to play here,’ it’s just a testament to what coach Pederson’s done with the overall team, what it’s like to be here.

So it was a guy that wanted to be here, and then it was an opportunity to get better as a group. You know, I said Riley did a really good job, but this is a guy that gives us a lot more flexibility. Not only on kickoffs, to be able to pin ‘em deep and do some different stuff, but it gives us a longer, you know, kickoff line on Sundays. You know at times later in the season some of those lines got shorter with Riley, but this won’t be an issue, and I think that’ll free us up to potentially, maybe not go for one when it’s a longer distance on fourth down, maybe that’s three points that we can take advantage of.

So, it just gives us a lot more flexibility to add a very good kicker, one of the best kickers in the league, to our roster. We had to take advantage of it, especially for a guy who wanted to be here.

Related reading: A Tale of Two Kickers: Why Did The Jaguars Sign Brandon McManus?