Bernie: Finally, An NFL Exhibition Worth Watching
Bernie: Finally, an NFL exhibition worth watching
11 hours ago • BY BERNIE MIKLASZ firstname.lastname@example.org
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m really looking forward to the Rams’ preseason opener tonight in Cleveland. This qualifies as a conversion for me. But I confess: I’m in.
I’m usually bored by the drudgery of exhibition games. They’re almost always dull. And it’s truly sad to see players’ seasons wrecked and wasted because of injuries in meaningless games that exist for one real reason: to generate extra revenue for greedy NFL owners.
Another problem? Exhibition games are often misleading. Fans watch a third-string quarterback — say, Thaddeus Lewis — running around and making plays against scrubs and waiver-wire folderol and begin fantasizing he’s Joe Montana.
And then there’s the quandary of conflicting coaching agendas. Most coaches view these games for what they are, a chance to evaluate players in a different setting. These secure coaches refuse to reveal their regular-season schemes that give upcoming opponents a free scouting report.
Other head coaches game plan for these rehearsals, reaching into the regular-season playbook in a transparent attempt to look smart. The Rams were the NFC West preseason champions for three consecutive summers under former head coach Steve Spagnuolo.
Rams head coach Jeff Fisher didn’t game plan for last year’s preseason opener at Indianapolis. Colts coaches treated the event like the Super Bowl, went with their regular-season packages and made the Rams look clownish in a 38-3 loss.
Rams fans spent a week shrieking about Fisher being out of touch, stale, stuck in the past, a bad hire, and no better than Spags. It was one of the most absurd overreactions I’ve ever seen.
So yeah, I normally despise preseason football.
Why do I care about this one?
Because the Rams have generated buzz. And for once, and at last, there’s a reason to believe that the hype could lead to legitimate hope.
The Rams have a lot of new toys and gadgets — young, skilled talents capable of transforming the league’s sleepiest offense.
I’m geeked for a sneak preview of wide receiver Tavon Austin, the No. 8 overall pick in this year’s draft. I don’t know how much he’ll play, but even if his debut appearance is nothing more than a trailer for an upcoming action-adventure movie, I don’t want to miss it.
Bring on the sneak peeks. The scenes of Austin, flex tight end Jared Cook, wide receiver Stedman Bailey and second-year wideouts Chris Givens and Brian Quick.
We’ll see a brand-new backfield taking shape, with Daryl Richardson, Isaiah Pead, Zac Stacy, Terrance Ganaway and Benny Cunningham vying for regular-season playing time and touches.
Later on in the preseason we’ll be able to check the progress of quarterback Sam Bradford, offensive tackles Jake Long and Rodger Saffold and the battle at left guard between Shelley Smith and Chris Williams.
We can see how the second-year players are coming along. And the Rams have new faces on defense, including instant rookie starters Alec Ogletree at outside linebacker and T.J. McDonald at safety.
Compared to past summers, there’s so much more to take in now. There are intriguing competitions for roster spots; the Rams will be cutting players who will earn jobs elsewhere in the NFL. And with so many young and developing players, it will be fun to see how fast (or slowly) they’re learning.
I doubt that Fisher will game plan much for this one. It would be silly for offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer to divulge an extensive look at the many formations and personnel groupings he’ll be going with during the regular season.
That said, the Rams’ preseason games, especially on offense, may not be as bland as anticipated. The Rams will have NFL’s youngest team for the second consecutive season, and the influx of new talent creates a challenge for the coaches.
Fisher and staff must begin the process of projecting roles for these players. The coaches have to form ideas of what the newbies can and can’t do. So we can probably expect to see at least some real football being played out there.
“We’re not going to do too much from an X and O standpoint but be pretty simple,” Fisher said. “We have no idea what to anticipate from our opponent, but we’re going to create a lot of good matchups and see how they fare.”
Since the Rams moved here in 1995, I’ve been cranked up about preseason games only four times.
The first was in 1995; it was the St. Louis Rams’ first game appearance of any kind, so I flew to Seattle for the preseason opener at the old Kingdome.
The second was in 1997, when Dick Vermeil took over as head coach after a 14-year absence from coaching. Vermeil’s return to the sideline was a big deal, even for preseason game.
The third time was 1999. The Rams had signed Trent Green to play quarterback and hired Mike Martz to run the offense. They’d traded for running back Marshall Faulk and signed veteran guard Adam Timmerman. Wide receiver Isaac Bruce was finally healthy and ready to roll. And Bruce was joined by Torry Holt, a highly touted rookie wideout.
No, we never saw that Super Bowl title coming — looking back on it, the memories are still shocking — but I had a strong sense that something substantive was percolating at Rams Park in the summer of ’99.
The fourth time was Bradford’s rookie summer of 2010. He was the No. 1 overall choice in the 2010 draft, and the curiosity level went way up.
So here we are in 2013. There’s more interest in this team. More excitement surrounding this team. More things things to watch with the Rams than we’ve had on display for a long time.
It’s great to have football back.
Yes, even preseason football.
Re: Bernie: Finally, An NFL Exhibition Worth Watching
I don't recall that reaction at all. Is this a Bernie strawman? Or is he just listening to the dumb-masses at the PD board again?
Hey, Bernie, you might do better to listen to intelligent Rams fans. Like the ones that are, oh I don't know, say......HERE.