Even the most ardent football fan cannot disparage the relative inconsequence of the fourth and final preseason game. It is not as bad as it used to be when there were SIX preseason games (the Vet was very close to the Walt Whitman Bridge) but sports fans may be better served witnessing the Phillies notch another win (85 and counting) to go 40 games over .500 on September 1. The fourth NFL preseason game is about as irrelevant to the average fan as… well… Mr. Irrelevant (final NFL Draft pick).
Just as Round 7 of the NFL Draft doesn’t blow up ESPN’s ratings, this fourth preseason game has significance and purpose and value. Coaches and GM who do their homework before the NFL Draft find Jamar Chaney or Terrell Davis or Tom Brady in Rounds six or seven. Likewise, the final preseason game is not as much an exercise in futility as say… a mafia no-show contractor job. Actually this season more than any other, the preseason has quantifiable value. There were no OTA sessions, no mini-camps and “training camp” itself was an exercise in futility. Due to the new CBA, the lockout and abbreviated offseason activities, most NFL Training Camps experienced less tackling contact and fewer conditioning workouts than the average touch pickup games in Grammar School!
Eagles preseason has been an up and down affair in preparation for the season. Depending on which game you viewed your opinion on the Eagles prospects may differ greatly. Pittsburgh dominated the Eagles on both sides of the ball, while Cleveland succeeded in making Philadelphia look like a Super Bowl contender. The truth of course lies somewhere in the middle, which is news to absolutely no one.
Tonight’s game should feature the Eagles second team (plus Danny Watkins) against the “NY Jets” third and fourth stringers. Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan has made it clear that his first and second teamers (who just played Monday due to Hurricane Irene’s weather delays) will be no closer to the field than the East Rutheford Sports Complex is to Times Square.
The only purpose of preseason on the field is to determine who makes the 53-man roster (plus practice squad). It is not about selling preseason tickets, nor is it about Flight Night, nor selling Michael Vick jerseys to make up for his $80-$100 M contract. It is about determining which 53 players belong on the team and which players will seek work with the UFL, CFL or Arena League.
The best thing about the fourth preseason game is the fact that position battles are decided tonight. The worst thing is that the game itself is about as entertaining and dramatic as two lepers hand-wrestling! Currently the Eagles have approximately 80 players on the team. Sixty of those players will be invited to the active 53-man roster while another 7 will join the practice squad. Ergo, 20 of the players in uniform tonight will not be Philadelphia Eagles a week from now (or perhaps as soon as Friday morning).
Many of the starters will not even dress for the game for fear of injury before the games start to count. Tonight’s will be a true “Root for the Laundry” affair. I support that coach’s decision completely because season-endng injuries can happen when you least expect them. Ask Leonard Weaver, Stewart Bradley and Kevin Kolb (all hurt in the season’s first game of 2010) how easy it is for one game on any given Sunday to affect their entire season.
Tonight we will see a lot of Vince Young throwing to Johnnie Lee Higgins and handing off to Dion Lewis. Expect Joselio Hanson to see 700% more snaps than Nnamdi Asomugha or Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. What we will see are position battles for those final half dozen roster spots. Who will be the starting offensive lineman and the backup linebackers? Will Danny Watkins and Jason Kelce become the first NFL starting rookie Center-Guard tandem in NFL history? Will LB Jamar Chaney and Casey Matthews line up next to Moses Fokou as starters (with not a full NFL season among the trio) or will someone else fall from another roster as a salary cap casualty? What about the defensive line? Will Mike Patterson make this team (despite his AVM) or will a job open for someone else to step up?
What about quarterback? Will Vince Young lose the backup QB role to Mike Kafka? Will it matter now that the third (or “emergency”) quarterback is now allowed to come into the game without injury to the starter and backup? Does this mean Young will be relegated to the wildcat formations (a la Michael Vick two years ago) and subject to penalty for not understanding the playbook? Clearly Kafka knows the playbook better than Young and as well as Vick after a year in the system? What about WR? Will Jeremy Maclin or Steve Smith be ready to go for Week One? Will DeSean Jackson get a new contract prior to the first kickoff? Is Drew Rosenhaus in town or at the Meadowlands tonight?
Some of these outcomes are more likely than others but what do you think? If you were Andy Reid or Howie Roseman or Joe Banner, what would your focus be? If you ever wanted to sneak on the field in your store-bought Eagles jersey, your homemade shoulder pads and “borrowed” helmet, get yourself up to the New Meadowlands (Exit 16W off NJ Turnpike) and grab a seat near the Eagles bench. This is your chance to get away with it but make sure your medical premiums are paid because some of these guys are fighting for jobs.
The difference between the NFL and UFL or Arena Football League vs. weekly street games in the Vince Papale League? Paychecks. NFL paychecks are in store for 60 of these 80 players while 20 of these guys will be looking for work next week. Supply and demand as it’s the economy! Some of these can hook on with other teams while the rest are headed for the unemployment office (just in time for President Obama’s NFL Kickoff Public Address). Sound familiar to anyone out there? After an entire summer of arguing how the NFL will divvy up their $9 billion profits, we are finally reaching the end of the preseason and getting ready for some real football. Fantasy Drafts, Bookies, office pools and Tailgating are all coming our way.
Back to Football.
About the Author
Written by Christopher Rowe
Contributing writer Comcast Sports, NY Times contributing stringer 1996-2000, Contributing writer Yahoo Sports (2001 World Series). Contributing writer Newsday Long Island (1992-1994, Jets Training Camp) and Newak Star Ledger. Freelance Copywriter, Editor/Founder Atlantic Times Weekly (1993-2003) fantasy football magazine, produced screenwriter and general humorist. Hofstra University grad, Marist College honorary alum, Salesian; Purveyor of the Value and Valor of Philadelphia Eagles 1960 NFL Championship; Adrent believer that Eagles could have won Super Bowl XV...and Super Bowl XXXIX...plus modern decade of Eagles 5 NFC Championships... Believer in the Broad Street Bullies and the 1983 Sixers... Witness to Philadelphia Phillies World Series championships 1980 & 2008, Suffered Phillies first pro sports team to reach 10,000 losses,witnessed "1980 Cardiac Kids," 1983 "Wheeze Kids," 1993 "Macho Row" and many, many, many not-so-memorable seasons in-between... until the Philadelphia Baseball Renaissance of 21st Century, Five NL East division titles 2007-2011, 3 NLCS appearances 2008-2010, 2 consecutive World Series berths 2008 & 2009. 2008 World Champions of baseball [miss ya Harry and Richie]; "collector" of MLB ballparks (42 stadiums including 15 which are gone); Fantasy Football & Baseball player since 1992. Always a sports fan... Tenui Nec Dimittam Contact me firstname.lastname@example.org