Watching the Cardinals bumble and stumble through their first quarter of game action Saturday night, I started to worry if this could spell doom for the entire season. That the first-team offense's sloppy and disappointing play was some kind of dark omen for a series of frustrations and let-downs to come over the next four months. But then I remembered one defining and incontrovertible fact: it's the preseason.
These constantly replayed and overanalyzed "contests" occurring over the next three weeks are utilized solely for preparation and player development. There are no game-plans, exotic formations or major adjustments. Coaches intentionally play with vanilla formations and run basic plays to not give away anything to opposing coaches and scouts, who look at every piece of film. The staff will not make impactful changes just to win a meaningless game and risk strategy exposure. Even a preseason victor is an illusion as it often comes down to whichever team has the better reserves and "camp bodies."
That is not to say preseason games lack value. They are crucial in the development of young players; getting them accustomed to the speed, aggression and complicity of the NFL game. They assist veteran players in shifting into mid-season form and getting those first hits out of the way. They permit coaches to see their newer players in game settings matched up with similar competition and see who can best bridge their skills from training camp to the regular season.
But preseason games also mask a great deal. How a team plays in the preseason is no way indicative of how their complete season will play out. A perfect example is coach Ken Whisenhunt's preseason record of 3-10 compared to a 31-23 record in the regular and postseason. Players can develop and have breakout stretches that have carried their teams to Super Bowls. Injuries and inconsistencies can occur that derail a franchise's entire campaign and set them back years.
Bottom line, don't overreact to one bad half of not so meaningful football. If there is anything the Big Red has proved over the past three seasons, it is that they are a resilient and constantly evolving group that surprise and excite where it used to disappoint. An NFL season will always be a marathon, not a sprint, and while the participants may have changed, the Cardinals have earned their way into the race.
Follow Ryan Knowles on Twitter: @RyKno52>
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Cards' Preseason: Overreactions Unnecessary
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