The Monday After


Posted Aug 11, 2003


The conventional wisdom is that you should judge a team’s performance in a preseason game based on what happens when both team’s front-line players are in the game. That’s OK as far as it goes, but it’s so highly flawed that it’s nearly useless as a basis for any meaningful analysis.

One reason is that the schemes used are plain vanilla, with coaches not wanting to give anything away that’s going to be used during the regular season. You don’t want to give future opponents too much to look at on film, especially one you’re playing in the regular season as the Redskins will play the Panthers.

But here’s the main reason why it’s folly to make any judgments based on 15 minutes of football: games last 60 minutes. The first few possessions are a feeling-out period, with each team testing out the other, probing for weaknesses and observing reactions to certain plays and situations.

If this was the regular season, the Skins probably would have started out with eight men in the box to stop Stephen Davis and dared Rodney Peete to beat them through the air. Had they not started out that way, they surely would have moved to such an alignment following a 74-yard first quarter by their former tailback.

Undoubtedly, Steve Spurrier would have worked to exploit what went wrong in the Panthers’ secondary that allowed Laveranues Coles to get wide open for a 47-yard gain over the middle. Then Panther coach John Fox, a defensive guru, would have adjusted to take that play away, prompting Spurrier to try something different, and so on. In the preseason, the chess game stops after a few pawns have been moved, if it ever really starts at all

To further illustrate this, take Davis’ and Patrick Ramsey’s stats for a quarter of play and project them out over a full game. Davis’ career may enjoy a renaissance in Carolina, but he’s not going to rush for 296 yards in a game this year. And, on his worst days, Ramsey won’t go anything like 8 for 24 passing over 60 minutes.

The Redskins will look terrible in the first quarter of some games this year and win. You could argue that they took Carolina’s best shot in the early going on Saturday and emerged trailing just 6-0. It’s also likely that they sometimes will play poorly to start out with and go on to lose. Things don’t play out that way in the preseason and that’s why you need to be very wary of over analysis.



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