Football is back. Sort of. Training camp kicks off today and that’s exciting, as real games are just the corner. A very long corner that will seem faster than it is, but the line is in sight. (Alright enough racing metaphors.)
Every season is different, and so every season’s expectations are different. We’ll have plenty of time to re-calibrate them on the eve of the regular season, but for this preseason I’m looking forward to well, looking forward to the regular season.
1 I’m looking forward to not worrying about much this preseason
Starved of action for half a year, training camp and the preseason come around and we eat it up. We’ll get overly excited about just about everything. It’s a yearly ritual. Well, the beginning of camp is my Lent, and I’m giving up getting wound up about performances in practice or in meaningless exhibition games.
Every year, in every camp, there are middle and bottom of the roster players that stand out against other middle and bottom of the roster players, raise our expectations and evaluation. Then the roster cuts or the regular season arrives and lo and behold the middle and bottom of the roster players go back to being middle or bottom of the roster players, if they even make it. Starters aren’t immune. Sam Bradford’s best game as an Eagle was that preseason game against the Packers.
But with veteran starters, it’s more likely to go the other way. There’s no incentive for them to go all out in preseason and start the wear and tear in August. For the most part, these guys know how to take care of themselves. I won’t be worried if Jason Peters or Fletcher Cox or any other guy with no chance of losing his starting spot doesn’t look 100% during less than half a meaningless game.
It’s human nature to get excited with the return of football. But for eleven months out of the year we say “it’s just the preseason.” Let’s make it twelve.
2 I’m looking forward to the details
All that said, it’s not like the next six weeks are totally worthless. I won’t really care if Carson Wentz isn’t quite clicking with Alshon Jeffery, as those things don’t happen overnight. But I will care if he’s still sailing passes. I will care if he still has issues with snaps. I will care if he’s taking too many hits again. Preseason is about process, not outcomes. They say don’t sweat the details, but this August, I will.
3 I’m looking forward to the takes
So with meaningful processes in meaningless games we will get the worst of both worlds: hilarious takes. Regardless of how it goes, Carson Wentz’s first preseason game is going to be a tender. But hey, hopefully we’ll get a full preseason out of him this time. I always look forward to the takes, but for some reason this year it’s especially so. This time last year it was all about whether Wentz was a legit prospect. He sure looked like it by the end of the season. He’s far from a finished product but he hit the ground running rather than tripping and falling. Freed from the apprehension of wondering if Wentz is an immediate bust, this season has a lot of cautious optimism ahead. That’s exciting, but also fertile ground for the carnival barkers.
So get ready. Takes are coming. Enjoy them, but don’t value them.
4 I’m looking forward to what looks to be a relatively quiet training camp
Which is great. One mark of an improving team is fewer question marks. On offense, there’s one starting job really up for grabs, left guard. The other four starting jobs on the line are set. QB and TE are set. RB is going be by committee with LeGarrette Blount carrying the largest load. The top four WRs are set. There’s competition at backup spots, but 31 other teams have that. On defense, who plays DE opposite Brandon Graham is up for grabs, as are all the CB roles, but even that isn’t as exciting as it sounds. In both cases there are veterans who can begin the season getting the majority of snaps as the rookies behind them develop, which again is status quo in the NFL.
And the status quo is nice. A year ago, there were a lot of moving parts, and before that were taking gambles each season. This year, it’s business as usual for the preseason: a couple of starting jobs up for grabs as a team tries to develop young players to push the veterans. Over the course of the regular season we’ll find out if the Eagles are a good team or not, but as camp begins it feels like they are going to be.
5 I’m looking forward to just having some fun
Dear Doug,— John Barchard (@JohnBarchard) July 23, 2017
Since we're super thirsty for WR tuddies & you have some new toys... Can you open up the 1st preseason game like this?
Yes Doug, please do this. It’s fun and useful for evaluation purposes!