NFL preseason Week 1 is in the books and we are rolling along into Week 2. Remember, the preseason is mostly lies, but nonetheless it’s awesome to see football back. I’m glad to get your questions about this wonderful game. The mailbag is a tad later than usual this because of the Antonio Brown saga. I wrote about that situation here.
Question for the mailbag: what’s your best and worst preseason memory as a player? — @LownesMatthew
I’m not sure there’s ever been a best moment, since it’s the freaking preseason. But I guess it’s probably that fourth preseason game and watching players compete to make the roster. If you’re a starter, you typically don’t play. You get to relax on the sidelines with a hat on and cheer on your young teammates.
These players treat this opportunity like the Super Bowl, which they rightfully should be doing. It’s a big moment for them. So seeing their joy of playing the game and how excited they get when they’ve made a big play is probably the best moment.
Now, I’ve had plenty of “worst” moments. We had a 2.5-hour rain delay my rookie season. Yikes. No one wants a rain delay in the preseason. But the worst moments all revolve around playing time.
The absolute worst was in 2015, my last season with the Giants. About an hour before the game, I was told I was playing right tackle that night, which is extremely late notice and not typical for a veteran player. Then I proceeded to play 3.5 quarters at right tackle and right guard, for no apparent reason. I was going to start the season at right guard, and I never understood why I was playing so long that game. I was the only starter on either team who played more than a quarter at the most. It felt like punishment for having missed some days in camp because my ankle was recovering from being broken.
The following season I was in Detroit for the preseason. I played in the first game like usual. We weirdly had only five or so days between game one and game two. My ankle was beat up and I didn’t practice much between those games. I had dressed to play in game two, and my OL coach sat me. I was fine with that. We then had 10 days until the next game. I practiced all week and was excited to play because I needed some good film.
I was the backup interior lineman for that game. So if anyone had gotten hurt, I was going in. I might have even been the backup at right tackle. When we got to halftime, I was getting warmed up because the twos were going into the game. My offensive line coach approached me and he had this look of concern. He said, “you’re not playing. I was told you’re down.”
I knew right then I was getting released the next day. We headed back on the field for the third quarter and I went directly to my OL coach, who I had a good relationship with, and asked him, “Am I getting released tomorrow?” He told me, “I’m not sure, but it doesn’t look good.”
We were both right. I was released the following morning. I was even driving to work early because I had a feeling I was getting let go. Then they called as I was driving in.
In your opinion, what is the optimal number of OL for a team to carry on the 53-man roster? Also, what kind of positional flexibility do the backups need? — @markbrown247
You need 10 offensive linemen on the roster to practice. To me, it doesn’t matter if seven or eight are on the roster, or all 10. What’s more important is making sure you have seven quality linemen who can dress on gameday, as that’s the number that most every team will dress.
And here’s where I do have a significant point to discuss. When I first came to the NFL and probably up until five or six years ago, the position flexibility was simple. You had the starting five, and then a swing tackle and one interior backup. The swing tackle would play left or right tackle in case of injury and the interior backup would play all three of the inside spots.
Now, it’s more musical chairs. One starter gets hurt, and two linemen move, which makes two positions weaker. For example, if your left tackle gets injured, teams move their right tackle to left tackle, then insert a new right tackle. As a result, you’ve weakened two spots on the line.
I believe this happens now because it’s just tougher to develop linemen to play multiple spots. Less practice time, teams going younger at offensive line, and less overall development have led to this becoming an issue.
With several preseason games in the books, It seems like there will be heavy usage of the challenge for pass interference. Do you think that is preseason specific or should we expect that to be a staple of the 2019 NFL season? — @chrisblystone
Remember when everyone lost their minds about this new challenge rule? How it was going to make the game unwatchable and “ruin” it? Well, it hasn’t “ruined” any preseason games yet. There’s yet to be a controversy about a pass interference replay review. It’s been efficient and it’s worked. So, I think coaches are just using this time to see how the process works.
I’ve seen some challenge flags thrown early in games this last week that seemed to be fishing expeditions by coaches to see how the process works. That’s not surprising considering this is the perfect time to test it out. So I’d expect this to continue all preseason.