Stories

The NFL preseason isn't what it used to be

Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers and Baltimore's Joe Callahan. Photo: Todd Olszewski/Getty Images

The third week of NFL preseason used to be the week when starters played deeper into games and gave us clues about the regular season. As last night proved, that is no longer the case.

What happened: Andy Dalton, Eli Manning and Nick Foles barely played; Lamar Jackson and Carson Wentz never saw the field; and neither did Aaron Rodgers or Derek Carr — though that was due to the field being 80 yards long (no, really).

  • The Panthers, Jaguars and Redskins (and others) played their starters for longer, but they might regret that now: Panthers QB Cam Newton sprained his foot, while Jaguars WR D.J. Chark and Redskins TE Jordan Reed and suffered concussions.

The backdrop: Last year, Rams head coach Sean McVay determined that preseason football wasn't worth the injury risk — or really all that necessary when evaluating players — and sat his entire starting offense for all four games.

  • The move was met with skepticism (how would players knock the rust off?!), but the Rams silenced the haters by winning their first eight games, making the Super Bowl and, perhaps most importantly, being one of the league's healthiest teams.

On top of that, a growing number of coaches have come out and said they prefer joint practices to preseason games.

"The only real change from a game to a practice is in a game you don't get to do it over. At least in a practice setting, if we make a mistake, we can line up and do it again, and so we can correct that mistake right away. ... We get a little bit better evaluation in practice."
— Eagles coach Doug Pederson, per NJ.com

The bottom line: The NFL has considered shortening the preseason for years, and it feels like we've reached a breaking point. It's time. Nobody wants this anymore.

A simple solution: Eliminate two of the four preseason games, move the season start date back one week and then play 16 regular-season games over 18 weeks, with every team getting two bye weeks.

  • This would add another week of regular-season football to make up for lost preseason TV revenue, while also potentially providing enough scheduling flexibility to give teams a bye before playing on "Thursday Night Football."

Go deeper, via ESPN: Preseason Week 3 takeaways