5 Things to look for in an NFL preseason game

Preseason NFL football is finally here and with it comes four weeks of what many call meaningless games.  There have been calls in the recent past to reduce the Preseason schedule by two weeks, leaving only two warm up games for clubs to evaluate and prepare for the impending NFL regular season.  Season ticket holders don’t appreciate paying for these games in their overall package, media doesn’t like covering games with professional players they won’t see later, and coaches and front office management don’t like the potential for injury.

What’s the purpose of Preseason?

These are all valid points and could very well lead the NFL to eliminating two of four preseason contests from the month of August and expanding the NFL’s regular season slate from sixteen to eighteen games.  But with four games still on the books prior to the start of Week One, each NFL club should take advantage of every opportunity to learn as much as they can about their individual players, position groups and team makeup.

 5 critical factors to be judged in Preseason

  1. Comprehension – Some organizations are rebuilding with new offensive and defensive systems, many clubs have new coaching staffs, and all clubs are looking at new talent (rookies and free agents).  It’s important to gain a sense of the understanding and comprehension throughout the team.  Do the players have a context of their role in the scheme?  Are the position groups executing and adjusting by series (response to coaching)?
  2. Discipline – Mistakes are expected but can they be minimized?  Is the club making mental errors?  Is there timing and tempo with passing routes, in the running game, with defensive pressure?  Does one missed assignment lead to another, and another?  Are penalties due to execution errors, over aggressiveness, nerves?
  3. Recovery – Teams lost valuable production from season ending injuries to star players in the previous season.  How have these players healed up?  Is there any noticeable loss of speed, quickness, and agility in game competition?
  4. Integration – Personnel turnover inevitable.  What is the affect of new talent on the club?  Have rookie additions upgraded important performance areas in offense, defense, and special teams?  Have veteran free agents assimilated as leaders on the field and on the sideline?  Are new coaches communicating effectively with themselves and their players in game situations?
  5. Energy – Fans and teams are bound to be excited with the start of the season, but how will the absence or presence of the above four factors affect the overall effort and emotion of the club?  Are there any players lifting the level of performance of their teammates?  What rookies and or vets step up in crucial game situations?  Does your club panic with diversity, stay focused and consistent with success?

More to Preseason than stats!

Those evaluating the preseason performance of their hometown team or favorite club will not likely use any of these five factors as a determiner for success or failure in NFL Preseason Week One.  More likely they’ll concentrate on individual rushing yards, total tackles or number of receptions.  Coming to a final 53 man roster over the next four weeks will certainly require pinpoint evaluation of individual performance, but constructing an NFL Super Bowl Champion is much more comprehensive than that.

Mastering these key components to team building will go a long way in building the necessary character to get through rigors of the regular season and on to the playoffs.  Look deeper into the 2012 NFL Preseason, there’s more to be learned than just wins and losses.

Answer to the TwitPolls question – WR with the lowest (pass) drop rate % in 2011? Dez Bryant at 1.56

Name Team Targets Receptions Drops Catchable Drop Rate
 Dez Bryant DAL 100 63 1 64 1.56
 Larry Fitzgerald ARZ 151 80 3 83 3.61
 Calvin Johnson DET 151 96 7 103 6.8
 Wes Welker NE 169 122 13 135 9.63
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