The NFL regular season isn’t back, but football sure is. A full weekend of preseason football is just hours away, which should briefly satiate a starved fan base after months away from the precious sport. There’s usually a cycle with preseason football where people are excited for any football action on their screen, then people wane off of their low-dosage football before growing apathetic toward the preseason as a whole.
Blasphemy! The preseason is good for your soul — and there are actually things to take away from the preseason and reasons why it does in fact matter. The first reason why preseason football matters is rather obvious.
IT’S STILL FOOTBALL!
Beggars don’t get to be choosers here. Sure, the preseason is not the same level of football that’s played in the regular season, but these are all players that have been deemed NFL-quality by the league itself. It’s a step up from the vast majority of college football games and spring professional leagues like the XFL and USFL in terms of execution, technique and talent.
Think about how good the best college football teams are. The 2022 Georgia Bulldogs put 10 players into the NFL Draft this year, which is incredible. That’s still only 10 NFL-caliber players — preseason rosters are going to feature a higher quality of football than what you’re seeing from the top teams on Saturday. That’s not a groundbreaking point by any means, but anyone that just enjoys the sport should be happy to watch even the fourth quarter of a preseason game.
The biggest problem with preseason football is the inherent lack of stakes. The games don’t count and most of the players that become preseason superstars will seldom be heard from when the real games start, but just from an execution level, preseason is still quality football.
A first look at the rookie class
The preseason’s biggest selling point is being able to see the newly drafted players for the first time. No matter what people thought of them in college, they get to start with a clean slate on their new teams and in front of their ever-hopeful fan bases. Seeing and experiencing something for the first time is almost always going to get people intrigued, even if their excitement doesn’t sustain for the entire preseason.
This year should have a lot of people locked in for at least the first week with quarterbacks Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud and Anthony Richardson all slated to make their NFL debuts. Young and Stroud appear to have the starting job locked down for their respective franchises, while Richardson has all the athletic talent in the world to make spectacular plays in the preseason. Throw in former college superstars like Will Anderson, Bijan Robinson, Jaxon Smith-Njigba and others, and the buzz for these games starts to build itself.
At some point, it becomes a game of 'That Guy Was Really Fun in College'
In the first "Hard Knocks" episode this week, Aaron Rodgers noted how much he enjoyed watching current Browns rookie quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson play at UCLA as Thompson-Robinson scrambled for a first down during the Hall of Fame Game. That reflects a very fun part of the preseason for fans of college football, because it can be your last chance to see players you liked in college play before they move on to their post-football lives.
It’s not always pretty, like watching Will Grier struggle with the Panthers in his limited preseason action, but it’s still intriguing to see how some of the former college stars look on an NFL field. Don’t lie, you know you’re excited to see longtime Stanford Cardinal quarterback Tanner McKee play in the third quarter of a preseason game. We all are.
A first look at what teams want to be
Preseason games should be seen as a time to tinker and install a new scheme or personnel package that maybe didn’t get much air time in the season before. The Ravens, for example, are a team that should have a totally different look this season with the additions of receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Zay Flowers and offensive coordinator Todd Monken.
The results may not be immediate, but getting a first look at how teams would like to employ their new and existing talent can be fun to track for fantasy reasons and just for regular football reasons. Teams aren’t going to go all-the-way exotic with their preseason games, but they do have to run some of the core plays that they’ll use in the regular season.
We’re here. Enjoy the preseason. You don’t have to hide how you feel about football being back.