The NFL preseason has been cut in half this year due to complications arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. This has unsurprisingly produced mixed reactions from fans and team personnel alike. Here are two pros and two cons following the decision to shorten the preseason.
Con: More Difficult to Analyze Players
For coaches, executives and journalists alike, the preseason is crucial for identifying talented players. Every year there are multiple players in each franchise that break out in the preseason. In return they receive roster spots that they probably wouldn't have otherwise received. Last year on the Patriots we saw dominant preseason play from guys like Jakobi Myers and Chase Winovich.
While Winovich probably would've received a bit of playing time regardless, for an undrafted free agent like Myers it would be much less likely for him to even be on the roster. New England seems to pick up a game-changing undrafted free agent on a yearly basis. Almost every time, their rise almost always begins in the preseason.
The new pool of talent for the Patriots is once again very large. This sets the stage for more positional battles than we have seen in quite a while. The quarterback, tight end, outside linebacker, and strong safety positions are all wide open. Especially considering the Patriots are not used to this much decision-making as it relates to important positions opening up, a shortened preseason could only hurt them.
Pro: Lower Risk for Injuries
Almost as obvious as the first con was, the first pro is a no-brainer as well. Less opportunity for contact also lowers the chance of starting calibur players getting injured. It is an all too normal occurrence for player to get injured in the preseason. It appears that because their bodies have yet to readjust to the game of football, injuries are more likely.
There is no longer a Tom Brady level star in New England, and therefore no one player carrying the team. And even then if anyone like Gilmore, Hightower, McCourty or Edelman were to get injured, it would greatly hurt the Patriots chances.
And lets not just look from a Patriots point of view. If the Chiefs were to lose Mahomes for an extended time, or if the Titans were to lose Henry, their seasons would be near ruin. Cutting the amount of preseason games cuts the amount of injuries, plain and simple. Don't be surprised if we still do see a few high profile players fall to injuries. Even with there being only two games, that's still more than enough time for a few injuries to transpire.
Con: Less Preparation
The other point of the NFL preseason is preparing your players for the real thing. With less games comes less time available for the some 70 or so players on your preseason roster to get a chance to play. Even with the limited reps your team's core players usually receives in the preseason, they still are crucial to helping them get back in the groove.
Less games will most likely mean we will see less of our favorite players, as time in the preseason will likely be given to the players on the cusp of a roster spot. The team will have to find a balance between giving their stars a chance to prepare and giving time to those who could breakout. It is definitely not ideal, but it will be interesting to see how coaches and executives react.
Pro: Less Build Up to Regular Season; More on the Line
For most stable teams, there usually isn't an abundance of positional battles. The lack of real competition turns some fans off from the preseason as it feels like there are no stakes. Now as we said already, the Patriots actually have positional battles this year. But for good franchises, there aren't more than a couple competitive fights for the starting job each year. So the fewer the games, the less the average fan has to wait until the games matter.
But that positive is small in comparison to the fact that with only two games means there will be more urgency in every snap. Players have less time to show what they got, so the two games will be more competitive. This puts fringe guys in an enormous amount of pressure, which will test how they play in high stakes situations. While some consequences stand out more than others, something that appears as unimportant as shortening the preseason can have a large ripple effect.
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