Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions gets ready to hand off during training camp at the Detroit Lions Headquarters and Training Facility on August 5, 2010 in Allen Park, Michigan. (Photo by
Preseason's final lessons
While many NFL fans would rather be doing something else than watching preseason games, you might be missing something if you aren’t watching these inconsequential contests closely. At the very least, you can judge the league’s elite talent and coaches (like Mike Shanahan, pictured), while finding a few hidden gems along the way. But you can also get a sense of some trends, according to Adam Caplan.
Not being drafted isn't such a bad thing
For years, it was assumed that if a player went undrafted, he would have little or no chance to making a team’s 53-man roster coming out of the preseason. But once the draft is over, it’s really all about taking advantage of an opportunity. Houston Texans RB Arian Foster went undrafted last year, but once he got the chance to play, he started to move up the depth chart. In just over a year after signing with the team he’s become Houston’s starting running back. So again, it’s not about where you are drafted, it’s about what you do with the chance or chances you get.
The Lions have their franchise QB
If you’re a Detroit Lions fan, you’ve probably been wondering if the team would EVER have a franchise quarterback. The QB depth chart has been strewn with journeymen over the years, and Detroit hasn’t ever been able to develop their guy at the position -- until now. If you haven’t watched second-year signal caller Matthew Stafford this preseason, you’re missing out. What a difference a year makes. He looks very comfortable behind center and has shown to have terrific arm strength. More importantly, he’s playing with rare confidence for such a young player.
Preseason records are meaningless
Fans love to point to preseason records as having some kind of lasting effect for the regular season. To give you an idea of how meaningless preseason records are, the year the Indianapolis Colts won the Super Bowl (2005), they had a 0-5 preseason record. The year the Detroit Lions went 0-16 (2009), they went 4-0 in the preseason. And if you talk to coaches, they typically don’t game plan on either side of the ball, so it’s obvious they care very little about winning when the games don’t count for anything.
The Bengals have a good defense
It seems that everyone is talking about the return of QB Carson Palmer and the addition of veteran WR Terrell Owens to the Cincinnati Bengals. While Cincinnati’s offense looks to be improved, no one is talking about their defense. But if you watched that side of the ball, you would notice how much talent they have. Last year, Cincinnati looked to be improved a bit on defense, but now they appear to have much better depth. There’s talk in league circles of Cincinnati being a sleeper Super Bowl contender, but for a change, probably not because of their offense.
It's still a QB-driven league
Just watch any preseason game and you’ll notice a big difference between the starting quarterback and his backup. In most cases, the difference is quite stark. You can see why that position is the highest-paid in the NFL. You can also see the gap from the No. 2 quarterback to the No. 3. If you took a quick look at what’s left in free agency at the position, no wonder teams were very aggressive in signing veteran backup signal callers this year.
The 3-4 is here to stay
To possibly counter the high-powered offenses around the NFL, there are now 15 teams who are using a 3-4 scheme on defense. It wasn’t too long ago where the 3-4 seemed to be a bit passe’ or on the way out, but teams had to counteract the relaxed passing rules of recent years. It seems that defensive coordinators who use a 3-4 feel they can muster up a better pass rush with that scheme.
Leinart's future in doubt
With veteran QB Kurt Warner’s retirement earlier this year, this was supposed to be the time when fifth-year QB Matt Leinart would handle the reigns for the foreseeable future. Despite going 22 for 28 in the preseason, Leinart lost the starting job to veteran QB Derek Anderson. It goes to show that statistics are meaningless to a degree in the preseason. You actually have to watch a player perform in a game to understand how he’s playing. -- Adam Caplan