It may be only the the start of summer, but believe it or not football is just around the corner. In about a month the NFL will once again dominate the American sports landscape. Even though it is only training camp and then exhibition games this time will go a long way in determining who will be the contenders and who will not. Here are some reasons why you should pay attention to the NFL preseason.
New Coaches: If your team has a new coach you want to pay extra attention to the preseason, It will be here that players will start grumbling that they are being worked too hard or that the coach is too strict. Sometimes the team can bounce back from this kind of stuff, but most of the time the season just blows up on the launch pad.
Free Agents: Your favorite team just signed what you believe was the biggest free agent prize of the offseason. The preseason is when to can start to see if this guy will fit into the team’s system. Football is different than most other sports in that the team’s game plan can really dictate whether certain players will succeed or fail. One need look no further than Washington’s Albert Haynesworth. He was a two time Pro Bowl player when he was with the Tennessee Titans and then he struggled mightily last season with the Redskins, after signing a huge free agent contract. Did he forget how to play football in one season? Did he just stop trying because he has his big money? Or is the system in Washington just not where he can perform the best? I think it is the system.
Rookies: You have heard all about the players that your team has drafted, but the preseason is when you get to see them in action at the NFL level. It isn’t just rookies either, but other young players that have spent a year or two on the taxi squad looking for that opportunity to move up. These rookies and other young players are the ones that like the current 4 preseason game setup. If the NFL cuts back to just two preseason games, as has been proposed, then these guys will have fewer chances to show the coaches they are good enough to make an impact. A good portion of the NFL preseason isn’t about the starters, but the backups, and depth on a football team is always key.
Injuries: Every team will have someone important go down with an injury, there is no way to escape it. Someone will blow out a knee and have to sit for the entire year. How you deal with these injuries can go a long in whether your season is a success or a dud. There are always veterans that have gone unsigned that are willing to come back and fill these holes. Once again the question is which one will fit the system best.
Even though the preseason may seem long at times, it is important. Now don’t get me wrong, you don’t have to watch all four quarters of each preseason contest, but you may want to check out what happened after the games. Look beyond the wins and losses in the preseason and look at where the numbers are coming from and where they are not. These stats may just be a crystal ball that allows you to see what will happen once the games really count.