Some of the thoughts that run through an oversized, bald head: Read
I’ve written about this many, many times before, but the situation becomes more and more absurd each and every August, so here I am again, feet firmly on my soapbox, begging, pleading to stop the madness that is the NFL preseason. It’s been a month of practices now, and we’re still 18 days away from the opener. Keep in mind that 99 percent of the players reported to camp in peak condition.
As for the games, really stop and think about this. Of the 46 active players for the Cowboys in Week 1, my guess is that they would have played about 30 percent of the team’s preseason snaps. And with the fifth game this year, that may even be high. The preseason isn’t for the 22 starters in any way, shape or form. It’s more or less a five-week audition for the last five roster spots. Seven weeks and five games for five roster spots. And think about how much overturn those last five or six roster spots see throughout the season.
The primary goal of the players is, and should be, safety. Their job, what they are paid for, is the 16 regular-season games and the playoffs. I think only the Pittsburgh Steelers were even tackling during practices this preseason. It’s about reps, but non-contact reps.
We always hear about the old days when players reported out of shape from having other full-time jobs during the offseason, but never mind the 1950s and 1960s, how about as recently as 1989. In their teams’ final preseason game, Giants Pro Bowl running back Joe Morris and Patriots All-Pro linebacker Andre Tippett were lost for the season with injuries. The Pats lost two other starters that same game. There’s not a starter to be found on the field that final preseason game nowadays, with good reason.
So, here’s the question: Why play it? If after five weeks of practice and three games the coaching staff can’t determine which players should win those final few roster spots, there’s a bigger problem. With the new rule of not cutting the roster below 90 until the conclusion of the preseason slate, my thought is two games. If we’re starting the regular season the Sunday following Labor Day, start camp the second week of August, play two games, maybe have the starters play a quarter of each, and be done with it. Look, the sport has evolved in so many ways, so why can’t we change the structure.
I wasn’t in the locker room Monday, but caught the Cooper Rush media session at his locker on DallasCowboys.com and it was fantastic. Only with the Cowboys can an undrafted free agent rookie in the midst of training camp be asked about comparisons to Roger Staubach, Troy Aikman and Tony Romo.
I do like the kid, and he’s making the 53-man roster. There’s zero chance of the team being able to sneak him on to the practice squad. I would like to see him take some snaps against first- and second-team defenses. In fact, if it were my call, I’d let him play the entire first half against the Raiders on Saturday, then give Luke McCown and Kellen Moore a quarter each in the second half.
No one should be worried about Darren McFadden being 29 years old. Yes, for most running backs that’s more or less shuffleboard territory, but how and when a ball carrier hits that wall is more about touches. And McFadden is more like a sixth-year back on that front, having averaged 173 touches per season through his nine NFL campaigns. For comparison, DeMarco Murray is averaging 281 and a guy like Shaun Alexander, who seemingly hit the wall overnight after winning NFL MVP honors in 2005, averaged 350 over a six-year stretch. Was really impressed with how McFadden was exploding through the gaps against the Colts last week.
Will be interesting to see how the offense evolves this regular season on two fronts. First, head coach Jason Garrett, offensive coordinator Scott Linehan and quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson spent the entire offseason making tweaks to the scheme that better fit Dak Prescott rather than Tony Romo. And two, no one in the league spent a second preparing for Dak during the 2016 offseason. I think we’re going to see more no huddle, more play-action and roll outs, and more screen passes. Also more one-on-one opportunities for Dez Bryant, meaning if Dez is in one-on-one, let him make a play. He doesn’t need to have a step or separation. We kind of saw that with the touchdown catch last Saturday.
I really can’t fathom that Indianapolis’ Frank Gore has more rushing yards than Tony Dorsett or Jim Brown. Or that he needs 620 yards this season to vault LaDainian Tomlinson for fifth on the all-time list. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard the guy speak.
Among those really having impressive training camps, outside of who you’d expect, include linebacker Damien Wilson, cornerback Orlando Scandrick, defensive end Damontre’ Moore, wide receiver Brice Butler and running back Rod Smith. With the injuries to the rookie defensive backs, the re-emergence of Scandrick is significant and allows Byron Jones to stay at safety.
I know it’s early, and I know the training and coaching staffs want to take it slow, but I also can’t fathom how Jaylon Smith isn’t starting by Week 4. I think he’s exceeded just about everyone’s expectations, well, outside of his own.
Oscar Robertson owns the NBA record for career triple doubles, even though the term wasn’t coined until the 1980s. Super Bowl I is called Super Bowl I even though the first two titles games were called the AFL-NFL Championship Game. So why doesn’t former Cowboys great Harvey Martin have the single-season sack record. He registered 23 sacks in 1977. No one disputes that. Thus, the NFL says Michael Strahan holds the record with 22.5. Never mind that Martin accomplished it during a 14-game regular season.
Follow Jeff Sullivan on Twitter, @SullyBaldHead, or email him at [email protected]