Preseason football is a bit like local dinner theatre. You don’t much see the stars in action but the action very much resembles what you might otherwise expect. Only it’s not as good.
And in the NFL, it doesn’t really count. It can be a time for a team to survive, rather than thrive.
Take the Baltimore Ravens. They finished 8-8 last year, losing their last two games and missing the playoffs for the second straight year. But 8-8 was better than the previous year’s 5-11, so the Ravens counted on getting better.
Good luck with that.
As they approach their second preseason game on Thursday night, they do so having lost nine players for the season due to injuries, suspensions or retirements. Their quarterback, Joe Flacco, has a bad back and may not be ready to go until the opener in September.
Because football is a game of attrition, it is also a game of depth. And that is mostly what the Ravens must be looking at as they venture off to play the Miami Dolphins, themselves pounded by injuries that have deleted at least three starters, including quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
The Ravens played well in their first preseason game, beating the Washington Redskins 23-3. The results really don’t count, but the impressions and the confidence gained do, especially for the newer players who stepped up.
“You’re talking about the ability to stack performances,” coach John Harbaugh said. “You prove it’s not a one-time deal in a game.”
Staying healthy is the key to the preseason, and the regular season. Injuries, especially if they cluster at the same position, truly test the roster’s depth.
Backups would be starters if they were better players, and here they get the chance to show that they can be starters in the NFL when the real games begin.
Post By: Larry Weisman, a longtime sportswriter for USA TODAY, blogs for Twistity.com. Follow him on Twitter @MrLarryWeisman