One of the most difficult tasks when tuning in to watch a preseason game is to view it as though it is a regular-season contest. It’s not. Despite the fact that it looks like a duck, waddles like a duck, and quacks like a duck, this beast is not a duck. So what if you treat it like a regular-season NFL game? Well, for starters you risk coming to the worst conclusions about your team.
Preseason games are a bit tricky because NFL teams that want to build positive momentum will call their better offensive and defensive plays to ensure that players buy into the new regime’s strategy. Veteran coaches don’t show their hand in preseason, instead of focusing on a basic set of 10 or fewer plays that emphasize executing plays in the manner that indicate proficiency over other options from that play tree.
Players want to showcase everything they have in the few minutes under the NFL spotlight. Coaches want to keep a lid on everything. It’s the age-old conflict of transparency versus secrecy. What fans may want to know about the team may in fact be counterproductive to the goals of that team. Satisfying the fans’ curiosity about the team may give unwarranted intelligence to the opponents who face the Rams in the 2021 NFL season.
This is the test lab for NFL coaches, who want to pit their players against a wide variety of game-like scenarios. Not all game situations favor the players. Some situations are the NFL version of the Kobayashi Maru, the no-win challenge that forces players to face something that they cannot overcome.
Other scenarios involve putting the wrong personnel packages onto the football field, and witnessing just how disciplined those players are. Do they break formation and follow their gut instincts as to how to operate under what they see? Or do they adhere to the play, and do their role to the best of their ability to overcome the opponent.
Sometimes there is no right answer, but there are actions taken for the right reasons. With that in mind, here are three traps to avoid when observing the LA Rams in their first preseason opener against the LA Chargers.