The first preseason games of the 2018 NFL season will take place tomorrow night for the majority of the league. The New York Giants kick off their August slate of games versus the Cleveland Browns at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
As exciting as it may sound to finally have the NFL back in full swing for the first time in over five months, don’t get your hopes up of seeing the real Giants roster tomorrow night. The preseason has no weight on what the regular season will entail and most certainly does not guarantee success come September.
Just look at last season for example. Blake Bortles struggled mightily for the Jacksonville Jaguars, but managed to turn it on in the regular season and guide the Jags to the AFC title game, falling one possession short of making the Super Bowl. Over the past two years combined the Browns are just 1-31 in the regular season, but went 4-0 in the 2017 preseason.
The preseason simply allows teams to take a look at a variety of players who are on the cusp of making the final 53-man roster for Week 1. Each organization can have up to 90 players at training camp, meaning that up to 37 players will be let go before the start of the regular season. August is the month where new players learn the play book, while both drafted and undrafted rookies look to impress the coaching staff.
In the past, many starters took place in preseason action, but now elite talents generally do not participate too often as the risk of injury in meaningless games is far too high. For New York, Week 1 of the preseason will give backup quarterbacks Davis Webb and Kyle Lauletta (2018, 4th round) the first crack under center. Two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning will most likely rest the entire game before taking a few drives in Week 2.
Franchise wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. will not dress in Week 1 and if many had to guess, he will probably rest all four weeks in August based on what happened against the Browns in the 2017 preseason. His sprained ankle forced him to miss the regular season premier against the Dallas Cowboys and lingered into a more serious injury in Week 5 that ended his season altogether.
The returning starters on defense will likely also be resting in Week 1, including new middle linebacker addition Alec Ogletree. There is just too much risk rushing starters onto the field in pointless preseason games, specifically in the first week when camp is still just getting started.
2018 second-overall draft selection Saquon Barkley says that he intends to play against the Browns, but is unknown how much playing time, if any, that he will receive. The All-American running back out of Penn. State is still getting accustomed to the Giants offense and there is just no reason to rush him out onto the field in the early stages of the preseason. If he does in fact take the field, expect nothing more than two drives at most.
One thing to keep an eye on in this matchup is 2018 first-overall pick, Baker Mayfield. The 2017 Heisman Trophy winner is expected to take the field in either the second or third quarter with the second team offense. It will be a good determining factor for the former Oklahoma quarterback about where his game is at and where it needs to be heading into Week 2, but don’t make too much out of it as it is nothing more than a meaningless preseason start with backups.
Although Mayfield and Barkley went one and two respectively in the 2018 NFL Draft, both players will be limited during the preseason. The first week in August is used to work out all of the kinks as well as a tryout to ultimately finalizing the final 53-man roster by the end of the month.
Different teams have different types of strategies during the preseason and new head coach Pat Shurmur must take added precautions if New York wants to assemble their healthiest starting lineup in Week 1.
With the NFL taking a stance on illegal hits to the head, expect for more flags to be thrown than usual. It will be a sloppy game with multiple turnovers on each side, but that is how the preseason begins every year. Just embrace it and rejoice in the fact that football is finally back.