The NFL Preseason is filled with hidden agendas.
Some players look to get in work while avoiding injury. Others are fighting for survival and play like their heads are on fire. The contrasting approaches between players with secure spots on teams and those whose futures hang in the balance produces misleading results and unfortunately devastating injuries.
And let’s not forget that coaching staffs do not game plan to exploit weaknesses of their opponents during these fake games. By game’s end, what you saw isn’t necessarily what you’ll get when the games are real.
But that certainly doesn’t excuse the Ravens wretched performance in Philadelphia on Saturday night.
Lingering Concerns (in no particular order)
It’s troubling that Terrell Suggs, a 13-year vet and a guy who is looked upon to provide veteran leadership, was all undone in a preseason game by a roughing the passer penalty. Bad call for sure but he lost his composure and his defensive mates did the same while imitating a sieve during the Eagles first drive.
Special teams look like they are in tatters. There’s no one stepping up to win the return specialist job and the coverage units haven’t been all that impressive. Winning the battle of field position is key to success in the NFL. Jerry Rosburg’s boys need to get much better.
The Ravens spent four nights in Philadelphia giving the Eagles a decided home field advantage. Last year the Ravens hosted the 49ers but then, the game was played first followed by three days of practice. That is probably a better and fairer approach.
The nights away from home could prove to be helpful for the organization’s road trip planning for the regular season. Hopefully they were able to use the experience to create itineraries for the long trips ahead, namely Denver-Oakland and San Francisco-Phoenix.
Ozzie Newsome doesn’t call out players very often but this offseason he mentioned a few players a number of times when addressing the media: Matt Elam, Steven Means, and Rashaan Melvin. Elam is out for the season and Means is trying to fight through a leg injury that kept him sidelined on Saturday. Melvin is stepping up and the rangy corner could eventually steal Lardarius Webb’s job if the highly paid veteran isn’t a more available player.
The Ravens lack overall team speed (particularly when compared to arch-rival Pittsburgh Steelers) and that is heightened by the absence of Breshad Perriman. Defenses will squat on the Ravens without that deep threat and it will tighten the spaces within which Joe Flacco can throw. That will lead to more tipped passes and interceptions, particularly if Joe is off the mark. It will also choke off running lanes while opposing DB’s play closer to the line of scrimmage given the lack of a deep threat.
Marshal Yanda is the Ravens best player and it’s not even close. No one dominates his position more than the 2007 third-round draft pick. There’s a reason the Ravens will be a right-handed running team in 2015 and that’s because of the excellence of No. 73. He has developed a great knack in the zone-blocking, stretch approach of O-Line Coach Juan Castillo of securing his initial block and then in a timely way release to the second level. Yanda is arguably the team’s best offensive tackle too!
Unless he completely falls apart during the next 2 weeks, Darren Waller has secured a spot on the Ravens final 53. He could use a trip to Oz to pick up some of that cowardly lion courage though. His T-Rex arms in traffic could limit how Marc Trestman uses him when the games count.
Trey Walker has also made positive strides. His inexperience suggests that he won’t be an immediate contributor but if he continues to develop, he’ll provide quality depth late in the season – something that was obviously missing in 2014.
Preseason games may be a necessary evil given the limited physicality of NFL training camps. But with more teams holding joint practices the tempo, but virtue of the competitive spirit of practicing against another team, picks up and more closely approximates preseason game speed.
In essence, the joint sessions make the preseason games obsolete.
But that won’t stop the NFL from playing them at the expense of league-wide safety and the fans that continue to shell out regular season money for glorified practices.
The league will hold you, the fan, hostage.
Might there come a day when fans simply pay as they go and stop buying season tickets?
With the improvements in TV viewing compared to the added expenses and inconveniences of attending live games, will fans begin to pick and choose their games?
Ah yes, those hidden agendas of the preseason also include gouging the customers.