How Much Playing Time Should Stafford, Megatron See in Preseason?
A preseason injury to quarterback Matthew Stafford or wide receiver Calvin Johnson would mean disaster for the 2012 Detroit Lions, and the team must limit their playing time in these meaningless games. The preseason is all about survival, and there is nothing more vital than getting through it healthy. The Lions can’t risk injuries to their stars.
There is nothing that the elite players on the Lions offense can do in the preseason that will mean all that much. The preseason is for rookies and younger players to show their coaching staffs how they can handle themselves on an NFL level. It is a time for rookies to showcase what they have learned throughout training camp.
It is not a time for proven NFL stars to go out and put up silly offensive numbers so teams and fans can feel happy about their team. The approach should be to get through the preseason, not to statistically dominate it.
Tim Twentyman of detroitlions.com reported on Stafford’s goals for the 2012 preseason.
“I just want to play fast, be crisp, throw and catch, make sure we're doing our assignments correct,” Stafford said. “We get out there and compete against another team. It's a grind out here competing against each other every day and knowing exactly what they're going to run against us and they know exactly what we're going to run against them. So it's nice to get out and hopefully play a team that's obviously in a different color uniform and go out there and have some fun.”
The Detroit Lions were perfect in the 2008 NFL preseason, winning four games while losing none. They followed that up in the regular season by going winless, losing 16 games and becoming the only team to fail to win a game in NFL history (in a 16-game season). The lesson to take here is that the preseason is utterly meaningless from a statistical perspective, and taking any risk is unnecessary.
It does not mean that Stafford and Johnson should not play at all, because they have to get ready for when the regular season kicks off on September 9 when they host the St. Louis Rams. It means that the amount of playing time that they receive should be tied to something tangible, like making sure that they are all executing the right way, getting their assignments correct and competing.
For players like Stafford and Johnson, the preseason is more about being able to play against players other than their teammates. It is about getting an opportunity to be competitive against players trying to prevent them from moving the ball.
The Lions have high hopes for the 2012 season, and their success is tied directly to a healthy Stafford and Johnson. Winning games in the NFL is difficult, and the Lions need everyone ready to go at all times for them to succeed in 2012. Regardless of what others think, the Lions have high expectations for the 2012 season.
The Lions should use their 2011 preseason as a template for handling playing time in 2012. In the 2011 preseason, Stafford played two series in the first game. He played four series in their second preseason game, just over a full quarter. In the third preseason game, Stafford played almost two quarters, for a total of five series. In the last game, Stafford played just one series.
In their first preseason game of 2012, Stafford played three series. The Lions are wise to give the starters close to a full game of work combined during these games, as that is enough time to get their feet wet without taking on too much risk. There is a delicate balance at play, and the Lions need to play it conservative with their stars.
There have already been significant injuries to extremely valuable players across the NFL. According to espn.com, San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews fractured his clavicle on his first preseason carry and will miss four to six weeks.
Ryan Van Bibber of sbnation.com reported that Cincinnati Bengals starting guard Travelle Wharton injured his knee and will miss the entire regular season. Linebacker Rey Maualuga and defensive end Carlos Dunlap also sustained knee injuries, but they were less severe.
The margin between winning and losing in the NFL is decreasing, as games are won and lost on just a few plays. The Lions have advantages over most other teams with Stafford and Johnson, and they must come into the regular season ready to use the advantages they have.
How much should Stafford and Johnson play? The answer is just enough to get ready for the regular season without sustaining injuries that could linger and cause problems with winning games in 2012.
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