When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers take the field against the New Orleans Saints we witness the start of something beautiful; the NFL regular season.
But to get to this beginning, we must also acknowledge an ending. This is the culmination of the off season, where everything has gone into getting a 53 man roster to start their challenge for the Super Bowl. Free agents have come and gone, the draft is over and picks signed (some even released), OTA’s, mini camp, camp and preseason are all in the books. Over this huge offseason program scouts and coaches have watched more video and practices than many of us will see in a lifetime, all in an effort to juggle needs and build the best possible roster. Many times it’s the small details than make the difference between making the roster and leaving their playbook in the office. Those small things don’t always reveal themselves in practices, after all when players compete against each other they start learning trends and habits. Certainly players pickup on tells and are pre-loading and moving with the play in perfect harmony. This almost gives hopefuls the chance to cheat because they already know what’s coming. Coaches too need a chance to see how certain players perform in plays and packages. Also what effect certain plays have in situations. An offensive genius can design the perfect play, but of the defense knows exactly what’s going to happen then it has a very low chance of success.
Enter preseason games!
These “contests” are nothing more than a different type of practice where staff can evaluate players under circumstances they aren’t used to and see the effect of plays on a team that might not have seen it before. Whilst it’s a much more managed system than a game day, it still gives the closest simulation to playing in a live fire game where everything is left on the field.