The 2022 NFL preseason is over. Football fans are now just 10 days away from the first real game of football in months.
The preseason was full of fun storylines, quarterback controversies, and a major debate on the future of the month.
There were a lot of lessons to take away from the last month and a half, so let’s get to some of the largest.
Preseason Games vs. Joint Practice
More and more teams have decided to use joint practice over preseason games as a way to judge final roster spots and fill depth chart battles. Over the last few years, even coaches have caught on and confirmed that joint practices are a much better way to determine the readiness of NFL players.
The debate over which is more important will continue over the next few years. It also poses multiple challenges for coaches in judging their talent.
Teams who outright dominate joint practices are more inclined to sit most of their players in the meaningless games, while teams that struggle throughout the weekend up playing their starters against three and fourth-team players. Those third and fourth-string players having to cover the likes of Tyreek Hill or tackle Derrick Henry aren’t getting a fair enough rep and only hurt their chances through this if they didn’t get quality reps during the week.
There’s also the case that a fringe-roster player might try to go all out and accidentally injure a key player that wanted to get preseason reps because the week of practice didn’t go well.
Joint practices are a way a coaching staff can judge their players against opposing competition in a controlled setting. Preseason games take that control away. While many would argue their importance to players trying to start their NFL dreams, joint practices are being seen as far more efficient and effective.
Injuries happen throughout the NFL season. It’s inevitable. How teams can respond to that type of adversity will be the deciding factor on who finishes the season on top.
Preseason games can have a bevy of injuries. There is no denying that. Over the last few weeks teams have lost quarterbacks, the reigning defensive player of the year suffered a knee injury, and there have been weekly debates if a cut-block should be legal.
Teams like the New York Giants were decimated with injuries throughout camp and preseason games. How teams like the Giants respond and play following those injuries will determine the skill of the coaching staff, and the depth the general manager was able to find.
Depth matters in the NFL whether teams like it or not. The Dallas Cowboys lost Tyron Smith for most of the season, and don’t have a dependable answer at left tackle since. The Cowboys’ lack of depth on the line could affect their overall season.
Whether teams like to hear it or not, injuries are inevitable in the NFL. That leads to a large question of who has the best overall depth on each roster.
NFL Teams show Instability with Controversy
We can talk about the quarterback controversies going on in many different locker rooms, or the bevy of trades that happened over the off-season, but perhaps no takeaway from the last month is larger than the NFL’s response to controversies.
Every NFL team is different. There are different cultures, different goals, and different ways of handling business.
Over the last month, we’ve seen just how stark those differences are with some major teams.
The Buffalo Bills took two days to cut rookie punter, Matt Araiaza for allegations of gang-raping a minor during his time in college. While many fans and critics question how far along Buffalo knew of the allegations, they made the quick and definitive move to cut ties with a player that was under legal investigations.
The same can’t be said for other teams across the league.
The Browns, fresh off of giving their quarterback a full guaranteed $230 million deal, backed their signal-caller after 24 sexual assault allegations will cost him over 3/4 of his season. The Browns’ response to the suspension was one of deflection and cheap excuses.
The comparison of cultures between the Browns and Bills has never been more stark. For those questioning the importance of it, culture is paramount in the NFL. Not even the Super Bowl champions are immune to their level of controversy.
The team hasn’t (and probably will not) announced any form of punishment for defensive phenom Aaron Donald for his role in a joint-practice brawl that took place just last week.
Is it easy to say that Araiza would still be on a roster if he was a quarterback or star, defensive player. To a point, that thought process might be right.
The NFL has already announced they can’t offer punishment to Donald or Araiza as part of the 2020 CBA. It was up to the teams to make the call on their players and they showed the strong contrast of cultures still rampant throughout the NFL.
A bad locker room and front office can curtail any promising season as quickly as they come.
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