Judging a team and its players on what happens during a preseason game can be one of the hardest and dangerous ideas. It’s hard to know exactly what’s going on in some of these games.
Like a pitcher in spring training, NFL teams can use preseason games as glorified practices. They aren’t concerned with winning or losing. Coaches can use these games to work on packages or plays they feel need work.
We all have to remember that the preseason needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Teams don’t game-plan for each other like the regular season, and defenses play the preseason like the Pro Bowl. Preseason games are usually long, boring and hard to watch.
Like the Bills’ first game, they’re usually filled with penalties. Buffalo accounted for 14 of the 23 in the game.
Preseason is when the offense and defense need to clean up communication problems. We saw too many passes from Ryan Fitzpatrick fall into air, because he and the receivers weren’t together.
If players look bad, like Fitzpatrick Tyler Thigpen or Vince Young, it does have to be brushed off a bit. When the leading rusher in the game is the third-string quarterback, that’s usually a horrible sign. But Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller didn’t run the ball once, and only Spiller caught a pass on a screen.
The two backs had a combined two yards total on one touch. In the regular season, there won’t be a quarter that goes by where that will be the case.
In the preseason, I’m fine with that. Buffalo needs these two healthy at the start of the season if they have any chance at making the playoffs. Save their carries for the games that count.
On the flip side, there have been hundreds of preseason MVPs that couldn't get in the game once the regular season started. Don’t be too excited about a No. 5 wide receiver or fourth-string running back.
However, I’m not one of these people that think 100 percent of what happens in a preseason game should be written off because it’s the preseason. Players are still going to try their hardest whenever they step out on the field. In a lot of cases, the players fighting for roster spots are going to bust their tails no matter the situation.
I think we can take about a third of what we see as being real in the preseason. What teams should expect to see is improvement each week. There should be fewer penalties and fewer miscommunications against Minnesota this week than there were against Washington.
If these problems continue, there is cause for real concern.
If these problems aren’t cleaned up in the preseason, how are they going to be fixed when the season starts? If Fitzpatrick has another game where passes aren’t near a receiver, Chan Gailey should be worried for the start of the season.
As for players, I want to see trends.
T.J. Graham was Buffalo’s leading receiver in the first game with a measly 37 yards. However, if he’s the leading receiver through the first two or three games, it might be worth Gailey’s time to think about putting him at the No. 2 receiver position. Nobody has a control on that position yet. If Graham impresses enough in the preseason, his hands and speed could win him the job.
The preseason is a tease to what we’re accustomed to in the regular season. I can only speak for myself, but going without football since February 5 leaves me craving any game action.
It’s hard not fill up on the appetizer before the main course.