Thursday night the Seattle Seahawks will open their 2019 preseason against the Denver Broncos in Week 1 of the preseason. For the Hawks it will be their first chance to take the field in an actual game since the letdown in the Wild Card round of the playoffs against the Dallas Cowboys back in January. On the other sideline, the Broncos will come in a tiny bit more prepared, with an extra week of practice under their belts after having been one of the two teams to get to open camp early as a result of having played in the Hall of Fame Game last week.
As such, even though the Broncos might be a little bit more focused and have knocked off a tiny bit of rust in the game against the Atlanta Falcons last week, there is one thing that is key for fans to keep in mind when watching preseason football. That is that there’s a lot more preseason than there is football.
What I mean by that is that we’re likely to get to see roughly 130 or 140 snaps of something that kind of looks like NFL football on Thursday. However, while many of us are certainly excited to sit down and watch our first football in six months, those who are watching in order to see football are likely to be disappointed. The majority of those 130 to 140 snaps that we get to see on Thursday will see players on the field who likely won’t be on the 53 man roster come September. That means a level of play commensurate with the skill level of players who will not be on 53 man rosters a month from now, and means a product that is likely to more closely resemble the on field product of the Alliance of American Football this past spring or the National Gridiron League in 2020 if it is able to get off the ground.
In short, for the most part, what we get to see on Thursday evening from the Seahawks won’t really look like NFL football. In fact, it’s not even really much of a game, as is evidenced by the fact that the outcome is made completely meaningless by the fact that all 32 NFL teams get to erase their record in a little over three weeks and start over at 0-0 during Week 1 of the NFL season.
So, if it’s a product that isn’t NFL caliber football, and the outcome means absolutely nothing, why bother watching at all? What is enjoyable about a meaningless game played by players who are likely to be cut or waived within a matter of weeks?
The answer to those questions are simple. The entire point to watch preseason is to focus on individuals and individual match ups that could give a glimpse into which of the players we are seeing may actually make an impact during the regular season a month from now.
For example, the Broncos have one of the top, if not the top, slot corners in the NFL in Chris Harris. Depending on how much Harris plays, getting to see a matchup of the wide receivers that are battling for the backup role in the slot behind Tyler Lockett, including Keenan Reynolds, John Ursua and Terry Wright, could be highly entertaining. Obviously, Harris may not play all that much, so fans might not get to see that kind of matchup, but fans will get to see those guys on the field at some point, and noting who they are matched up against is as important as how they perform.
Other matchups that will bear watching including seeing whether the troubles Jamarco Jones had in pass protection against Barkevious Mingo in the mock game on Saturday was a fluke, and how he’s able to bounce back against the Broncos pass rush. I don’t expect Jones to be on the field much against the Denver starting pass rush of Von Miller and Bradley Chubb, but if he gets to go against the Denver Backups, that would be the highest level competition we’ve had a chance to see him face. Speaking of Miller and Chubb, though, most fans aren’t worried about Duane Brown at left tackle, but how will Germain Ifedi look at right tackle? He struggled in the season opener against Denver in 2018, but will another offseason of work with Mike Solari see another step forward in his development?
Other things to watch include how will the Seahawks starting corners of Tre Flowers and Shaquill Griffin look against the Denver starting receivers? How will the revamped defensive line look? Will it be stout against the run and able to generate pressure against the pass?
In short, looking at the specifics of situations match ups rather than expecting things to look like a regular season NFL game may make a world of difference in the experience on Thursday, no matter how excited most of us seem to be regarding the imminent return of the game we love.