The preseason matters!
Before the ball kicks off against Green Bay on Friday, make no mistake, the preseason matters -- but the score does not. Far too many people -- fans, media, players and coaches included -- put too little importance on the game and too much on its outcome.
It's impossible for anyone other than the coaches to know the importance of one individual play. Cardinals' coaches have spent so little time, if any, focused on what the Packers do. Coaching staffs go into preseason games with three major goals: stay healthy, get starters ramped up and decide on position battles. The catch for head coach Bruce Arians is combining the second and third goal at the same time.
The most important aspect of NFL coaching is designing favorable matchups. In order to be successful at this aspect is to know your personnel's strength and weaknesses, as well as your opponents. If you have a weakness at right guard, you must provide help in the form of double teams, snap counts and so on. In the regular season, it is your job as coach to cover for your players' weaknesses. You can't lie to yourself and hope the player gets smarter, stronger or more athletic. He is what he is. A player must be put in a position to succeed by his coach.
The preseason is the exact opposite. The best way to educate your players (and yourself about your players) is to put them in situations where you have no idea how they'll respond. This is why the score doesn't matter. Call a play that puts a player in a challenging position and see how he does. Let him fail and coach him up. There's no way for us as fans and media to know what the specific goal of a coach is on each preseason play call and for each preseason game.
Since the score doesn't matter, here's what I'll be watching:
I want to see his handle of the offense and his chemistry with his receivers.
Any one-on-one matchup
I don't care what the position is, any time there's a CB vs. WR, RG vs. DT or RB vs. blitzing LB. If you win one-on-one, your coach doesn't have cover for you if you're a starter and you make the team if you're at the bottom of the depth chart.
I'm watching to see if he catches the ball. Yes, it's that simple for him.
Michael Floyd, Daryl Washington, D.C. Jefferson, Paul Fanaika, Kevin Minter, Tyrann Mathieu, Jonathan Cooper, Alfonso Smith
This group has had outstanding camps but it's only camp. Every player is either young, unproven or has self-inflicted distractions. How will they play this month and for the rest of this year?
Mendenhall's short-term goal is just show health, offensive knowledge and a little burst. The veteran's long-term goal is to show last year was a rough comeback from injury and not a clear sign he's old.
There are so many questions. How will he be used versus Green Bay and this year? How will offense affect his defense? Will he be used sparingly to not allow NFL defensive coordinators to see Arians' plans during the preseason or will Arians play Peterson quite a bit to prepare him?
I really want to see this team play physical football. Ken Whisenhunt is a very knowledgeable football coach but this team became very soft before the hiring of defensive coordinator Ray Horton. Following Horton's hiring, only the offense was soft. Arians believes in running the football and throwing it deep. Power sets up finesse for Arians. I'm interested to see how long the team takes to transform.