There’s a saying that goes like this; “America has two favorite sports. Football, and waiting for football to come back.”
So it makes sense that in our football crazed society that as soon as we see anything that looks like professional football we go nuts. It’s easy to forget that; these games don’t have any meaning so far as score is concerned and there are a lot of mismatches. By mismatches I mean starters against second stringers, as well as the typical tradition that coaches have of saving their real schemes for the regular season.
While there are some indicators that we can take from the preseason, it is in no way itself, an indicator of regular season success. It is important to not fall prey to this misconception after watching your favorite team lead a solid drive into the endzone. It is similarly important not to be chicken little and exclaim that the sky is falling based on exhibition matches.
For instance, the Jets whose offensive woes can simply number as many, cannot simply be written off for struggling in the preseason. The 20 snaps that starters get during the preseason is not nearly enough to determine how a team will perform during the flow of a game. It can’t tell us how good the Jets may be at bouncing back from rough starts. Both Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow are late game performers (in the case of Tebow, very late).
Another example of preseason overreaction is how we view rookies. The comparisons to Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck seemingly never end. If one of them looks like a rookie at any point, everyone gets worried. Both ESPN and the NFL network talk about both guys scoring their “first NFL touchdowns” as if that were a thing that could happen in the preseason. It can’t. These stats count for nothing. If we all recall Cam Newton had a preseason to forget last year but, took flight during the NFL season. Conversely, Ryan Leaf looked better than Peyton Manning in the preseason and one source even called Peyton Manning “ordinary.” We all know how those careers went.
What does a fan in the preseason look for? We don’t get the view that the coaches and players get when they watch film. Very true but there are things to really look for without firing up the hype machine.
Look for each players skills. By this I mean look for shiftiness in running backs and just general speed. Quarterbacks need to make reads and go through progressions. If you look at where the quarterback is looking you can see him go through his progressions as his head moves from one part of the field to another. Also look at ball location. How much time does the quarterback have to throw? Oppositely, check the pass rush and see where their strong points are.
Try not to look at the score so much. In the preseason it can be misleading and is rarely a good indicator of how the team is actually doing. At this point you’re just better off chilling out. The regular season is only ten days away.