Fewer preseason games is another challenge for NFL coaches

Fewer preseason games is another challenge for NFL coaches

Fewer preseason games following an off-season without on-field workouts creates more challenges for new coaches, players who changed teams and rookies.

The NFL is cutting the exhibition schedule in half and pushing back the start of the preseason to allow teams more time to train because the coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation of organized team activities and minicamps.

An official announcement on the exact length of preseason still hasn’t been made. Players are strongly considering asking for even fewer exhibition games.

“Be ready for 1 or 0 preseason games. Won’t be 2,” Denver Broncos kicker Brandon McManus wrote on Twitter on Wednesday.

Teams were forced to conduct their entire off-season programs via videoconference so the league’s five new head coaches haven’t had an opportunity to see how players will adapt to their system on the field.

“You used to be able to have 60 days to get the job done, and everybody in our league will probably have more like 30 days, so I’m really focusing on maximizing the time and the meeting time and the most important things we need to get done when we get back together,” new Dallas Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said in late May about having to do a virtual off-season. “Having the unknown out there causes more work on the preparation side.”

At least McCarthy and new Washington Redskins coach Ron Rivera have been in charge before. Joe Judge (New York Giants), Kevin Stefanksi (Cleveland) and Matt Rhule (Carolina) are first-time head coaches in the NFL.

“I haven’t seen (the players) run and I don’t know what condition they’re in,” Rhule said. “But that is why you build a roster full of guys that you can trust so that you know they are out there working hard on their own and staying in shape so that when we do come together, hopefully all of the teaching that we’ve done can come together with the physical part.”

The Panthers are among several teams with new quarterbacks who didn’t get a chance to work with new teammates in organized practice sessions. Some, like Tampa’s Tom Brady, held their own throwing sessions even after the union’s medical director advised players not to practice in groups.

Late-round draft picks and rookie free agents will be affected most by fewer preseason games because they see most of the action in those games, especially the final one. Higher picks will have a tough time making an immediate contribution because they’ll have fewer reps to show off their skills.

“I think 32 teams are probably sitting here going, ‘Wow, I wish we had OTAs, I wish we had a chance to evaluate some of our draft picks and some of our free agents, new to the team,’” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said last month. “I don’t want to call it a setback, but at the same time we do have some young players that played for us last year that are going to have to take a big step forward. … And these guys have to understand that there’s a little bit of a sense of urgency once we get into training camp. Things are going to move fast and we, as coaches, need to evaluate these players. I have to put them in position to be successful to show what they can do and that’s everything that we are in the process of doing right now leading up to camp.”

Many starters don’t play a lot of snaps in the preseason anymore. That’s one reason why the length of the exhibition schedule was shortened to three games when the regular season goes to 17 games in 2021 as part of the new collective bargaining agreement.

It’ll be easier for coaches to map out their plans with fewer preseason games in a normal off-season environment when they’ll have actual practices on the field instead of everything held virtually.

For 2020, everything is unique.

___

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Rob Maaddi, The Associated Press

NFL

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada secured. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio
Alberta joins Ontario in lowering minimum age for AstraZeneca vaccine

More than 700,000 doses of AstraZeneca have been administered in this country

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
Alberta identifies 1,516 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday

Central zone has 1,849 active cases

Image/ Metro Creative Connection
County of Wetaskiwin responds to Alberta Energy Regulator’s decision on Directive 067.

On April 7, 2021 the Alberta Energy Regular (AER) announced a new edition of Directive 067.

A damaged unicorn statue is shown in a field outside of Delia, Alta. in this undated handout photo. It’s not often police can report that a unicorn has been found, but it was the truth Saturday when RCMP said a stolen, stainless-steel statue of the mythical beast had been located in a field not far from where he’d been taken. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Mounties get their unicorn; stolen statue of mythical beast found in Alberta field

Police are still looking for suspects, and have called in their forensics experts to help

There were six additional deaths across Alberta reported over the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 1,926 since the beginning of the pandemic. (File photo)
In this image from NASA, NASA’s experimental Mars helicopter Ingenuity lands on the surface of Mars Monday, April 19, 2021. The little 4-pound helicopter rose from the dusty red surface into the thin Martian air Monday, achieving the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. (NASA via AP)
VIDEO: NASA’s Mars helicopter takes flight, 1st for another planet

The $85 million helicopter demo was considered high risk, yet high reward

The Rogers logo is photographed in Toronto on Monday, September 30, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tijana Martin
Rogers investigating after wireless customers complain of widespread outage

According to Down Detector, problems are being reported in most major Canadian cities

People are shown at a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Sunday, April 18, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Nothing stopping provinces from offering AstraZeneca vaccine to all adults: Hajdu

Health Canada has licensed the AstraZeneca shot for use in people over the age of 18

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. The stage is set for arguably the most important federal budget in recent memory, as the Liberal government prepares to unveil its plan for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery even as a third wave of COVID-19 rages across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Election reticence expected to temper political battle over federal budget

Opposition parties have laid out their own demands in the weeks leading up to the budget

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

A vial of some of the first 500,000 AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada secured. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio
Canada’s 2nd blood clot confirmed in Alberta after AstraZeneca vaccine

The male patient, who is in his 60s, is said to be recovering

The funeral of Britain’s Prince Philip in Windsor, England, on Saturday, April 17, 2021. Philip died April 9 at the age of 99. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP)
PHOTOS: Prince Philip laid to rest Saturday as sombre queen sits alone

The entire royal procession and funeral took place out of public view within the grounds of Windsor Castle

Most Read