So, let’s be real here for a moment. We’re talking about the preseason. I know that we’re all excited to see NFL Football, but let’s not crown a new Super Bowl Champion just yet. The best teams are showing very little of their real potential this early, using the games as extra practices, while the worst teams are getting as many reps as possible for their top talent. You want to know who went undefeated in the preseason last year? Yup, the Browns. It’s a weird time of year. That doesn’t mean we can’t watch the tape and learn some things around the league.
1. Week Three of the Preseason isn’t what it once was
Old guy alert. Back in my day, week three of the preseason mattered. The legit starters suited up and played at least a half, the football looked reasonable for the most part, and you could get a half-decent idea of where teams are at. NOT. SO. MUCH this year. Highlights? The Browns took the defending Super Bowl champs behind the woodshed, 5-0. Yeah. You read that scorecorrectly. The Packers decided that one-hundred-eighty-million-dollar man Aaron Rodgers didn’t need any fine tuning, leaving DeShone Kizer and Brett Hundley under center all day against the Raiders, who decided that Derek Carr needed only three pass attempts to shake off his rust. In Carr’s defense, the first play from scrimmage was a forty- nine-yard laser to Amari Cooper, so he did look pretty sharp, but that could just have been the Packers secondary looking less than polished… The Chargers decided to have a look at BOTH Cardale Jones and Nic Shimonek under center as they got throttled by a Saints team that suddenly has too many quarterback options, but more on that in a second. Point is, week three ain’t what it used to be.
2. That’s most likely because, well, it’s dangerous
Coaches have become increasingly wary of the dangers inherent in the preseason, just ask Jaguars wide receiver Marqise Lee, who was one of the keys to the Jaguars unexpectedly efficient offense last season, averaging over twelve yards per catch. He’s gone for the year with a knee injury that some folks are blaming on the new helmet rule. Or, more precisely, players adjusting to the new helmet rule. The theory is, to avoid going too high, tacklers will always go too low…which is nonsensical. NFL players are generally around six feet tall, if you need to hit someone at the knees to avoid giving them a concussion, you’re not a good enough tackler to play the game at the professional level. Other teams around the league have taken precautions to avoid any dangerous situations, including the Rams, who simply aren’t using quarterback Jared Goff this preseason. The whole system needs to be rebuilt, from the ground up. Luckily, Jerry Jones (as per usual) knows just how to fix the problem of preseason injuries. He wants to turn two of the preseason games into regular season games. Yeah…that’s…not better, Jerry. Preseason games are dangerous. And stupid. And terrible to watch. Just burn it all down in favor of a league-generated, rotating, joint practice schedule. Go ahead and hit me up if you want to get into all the nerdy ways that this is better for the league. I’ll spare you the details here.
3. Sam Darnold is the man in New York
I’m not even going to lie. I’m surprised by this. Sure, he’s looked poised, but he wasn’t the leading passer in this week’s game against the Giants, Tedy Bridgewater was. Darnold threw for fewer yards, on more attempts. But Coach Todd Bowles clearly likes what he sees from his young signal caller, as they’ve shipped off the former Vikings franchise QB to New Orleans. I’m baffled. Bridgewater has looked better by most metrics, gotten more of the reps with the first team, and is a bargain at $6 million per year. I’d like to think that the Jets have some nifty plan here, but I think they are just mindlessly all-in on Darnold. Which is cool, but until the guy has seen some real football, don’t you want to be a little patient? I mean, the market for Bridgewater (if the Jets saw him solely as a trade asset) would only go up after the first few starters get injured. I’m not sure why they felt the need to pull the trigger prematurely, unless it was to signal to Darnold that the team is his, win or lose. We’ll find out soon enough. The Jets start out with Detroit, Miami, Cleveland and then the Jaguars. Yes, they’re going to get manhandled by the Jaguars, but if Darnold can’t earn them an even split through that soft early schedule, I think we’ll know the answer.
4. This may seem impossible, but the Packers overpaidAaron Rodgers
OK, OK. Slow down cheese heads. Hear me out. Yes. There is a strong argument for Aaron Rodgers being the highest paid QB in the league. I’m with you there. But here’s the deal. He should have been that guy five years ago. You’ve just rewarded an injury prone thirty-four-year-old quarterback with over one- hundred-million dollars guaranteed, on a totally front-loaded contract. He’ll have over eighty million by mid-March of next year. That’s insane. We all knew that the A-Rod deal was likely to break all the records, but this deal, averaging $33.5million per season is the sort of thing that can tank a team for a half decade or possibly longer. Why? Because they won’t be able to pay anybody else. Green Bay has a swiss cheese defense and no way to fix it. Look at what the Lions did with Matthew Stafford. Bad move, right? Right. I guess it runs in the NFC North. Rodgers will be forty when the deal comes to fruition, and I’m doubtful that the Packer faithful will be singing A-Rod’s praises when that time comes. He’s an all- time Packer great, but looking forward, instead of backwards, this deal more than likely stinks.
5. Conversely, the Giants didn’t overpay OBJ.
Sure, it’s a big number ($90 million) for a receiver coming off an ankle injury that cost him almost a whole season, but not many players can take over a game like Odell Beckham Jr. With new running back Saquon Barkley in the mix to keep defenses honest and make play action bite, I expect OBJ to have a monster year. MONSTER. Even by his lofty standards. Eli Manning is coming towards the end of his career, but the young core of Beckham and Barkley (Killer B’s mark 2) will make any young quarterback look like the next coming of Eli’s older brother. I’m not joking. Anyone playing QB for the Giants in the next few years is going to have a nice, cushy job.
Image source: AP