A lot of people tend to look at the negatives of preseason football such as injuries to players or fans having to pay even more money on top of normal games to watch players who won’t even make the final roster. So let’s take a different tactic and accentuate the positives.
#5: Coaches Implementing Scheme
Fans tend to forget that as new as a playbook and scheme can be to a player, it can also be a struggle for coaches and assistants on the team’s coaching staff. Coaches making the jump from college such as Chip Kelly are implementing their scheme to the players during the offseason with minicamps and training camps but preseason allows for coaches to at least see how the basics are looking. They can get a feel for how the terminology is progressing and how players are handling adjustments in game and during drives within games. They can also gradually start implementing more plays and seeing how the players adapt as preseason gets closer to the regular season.
Credit to USAToday.com
#4: Players Competing For Roster Spots
As everybody knows, teams generally field a 53 man roster with 47 players allowed to suit up on game day. The preseason is extremely beneficial for players competing on special teams coverage units and return units as they often make up the final quarter of the roster and can help establish versatility to their coaches. Players can also test out skills such as returning kicks or being split out wide as a receiver to further their chances to make the final 53 man roster instead of being stashed on the practice squad or cut entirely. Also players are auditioning for every team so if they do get cut due to a deep position, they can land on another team that wants to give them a shot at making their team instead.
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#3: Players Can Earn Starting Roles
Many coaches lean on practice performance to gauge how good players are but as is the case with the Cleveland Browns and their quarterback competition between Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel. New Head Coach Mike Pettine has stated that the starter will be decided by the preseason performances and he hopes to name the starter by the start of the third preseason game. Running Back Terrell Davis managed to stand out to coaches and teammates with a big hit on special teams in a preseason game and quickly rose up the depth chart before ending up being named as a starter. Tom Brady moved to backup behind Drew Bledsoe at the start of the 2001 season and his preseason experience allowed him to immediately move into the starting role when Bledoe went down with an injury.
Credit to wolfpacksteelersfan.blogpress.com
#2: Rookies Adapting to the NFL
For a lot of rookies, they will tell you that the biggest adjustment coming out of college is the speed of the NFL and how much faster everything is reaction time wise. By their second year, players often remark about the game slowing down for them. Preseason games allow for rookies to get acclimated to game speed even if the schemes are considered, “vanilla,” and are the very basics of the system itself. Usually quarterbacks have the most to benefit but every other skill position is also busy adjusting to the cuts of receivers, closing speed of defensive backs, and the physical size of linebackers and defensive linemen as they hit you.
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#1: Creating a 53 Man Roster
While practices are great and allow coaches to judge their personnel, there is nothing that can quite simulate the nature of a live game and preseason games allow coaches to properly judge their players in the heat of battle. They can adapt roles if players get injured and see how Player A adapts to being named the starter and playing against the opposing team’s starting defense. Player B may be asked to suddenly contribute on special teams along with being promoted to the second string and play more snaps in one game then he may have gotten all week in practice.
Coaches can also determine weekly which positions have enough depth allowing them to take more scrutinizing looks at positions where two players may be battling for a single spot such as the last wide receiver spot or the last linebacker spot. As the regular season draws closer, coaches and general managers are also keeping an eye around the league to see who they may like that probably won’t make another team’s roster but would provide an upgrade to their own team.
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While preseason games may be boring to the average NFL fan and may be considered too much money for owners, they still serve an undeniably viable purpose for many coaches and players around the league. Every player is trying to carve their own role and preseason games allow both coaches and players to either get acclimated to the NFL or try to earn a key role for the teams they are playing for (or may be playing for down the road.)
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