SPECTATOR'S GUIDE

Fred Faour: 5 things to look for in the NFL preseason games

Fred Faour: 5 things to look for in the NFL preseason games
The Texans offensive line bears watching. Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Football returns this week -- sort of -- with a full slate of exhibition games (the NFL likes to call it “preseason games.”). It is where you pay full price to see a lot of players who will be working in non-football jobs in a few months.

But there are some things you can look for in these games that might give you an indication of what to expect when real football starts for your team. Obviously in Houston, all eyes are on the Texans, but this really applies to almost any team:

1. Vanilla is the flavor of the day

Most teams will play basic packages on both offense and defense. With some exceptions, there will be little blitzing on defense and little in the way of trick plays on offense. Mostly because teams do not want to give much away, but also because many of the players you will see are trying to make the team, and coaches will keep it simple to see what they can do. In addition, many teams do not have their full programs in yet, and there is little to no game-planning. Some players who have little chance of becoming anything can look really good in these situations, so it is important to take it all with a grain of salt.

2. How to watch the quarterbacks

Almost every starter should look good, go 7 for 10 for 102 yards in a couple drives then take a seat. They are playing with the 1s, and the defenses they will be seeing are a step above 7 on 7. Conversely, don’t judge young quarterbacks too harshly. High picks who are not starters yet might be playing with the 2s or 3s. A lackluster effort might be as much because of that than a lack of ability..

3. New rules

It will be interesting to see how many additional penalties are called because of the new helmet rule, and what impact the changes on kickoffs will actually have. Players and coaches will use these games to alter techniques and strategies. Most likely, tons of penalties will be called in the preseason and then the officials will back off when real football begins.

4. Troubled position groups

Almost every team has at least one weak spot (hey Texans, we are looking at your offensive line and running backs). Preseason is a chance to work on improving, and hopefully a place where some new faces can make an impact. No matter what your team’s weakness, keep an eye out for that surprise player who steps up and earns a role.

5. Watch for potential cuts from other teams who could help yours

Every team will have some players who look good, but simply can’t find a spot on a roster that is strong at one position group. The last cuts can often find jobs quickly on teams that have specific needs, and the preseason is a chance to earn not just a roster spot on the team they are playing for, but also to catch someone else’s eye.

Enjoy the “games,” such as they are. The score is completely meaningless (unless you are betting, and that is a different story), but there are at least a few things to watch for in the exhibition season.

 

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Yordan Alvarez had four hits on Tuesday night. Composite Getty Image.

Salvador Perez hit a game-ending single in the 10th inning, and the Kansas City Royals beat the Houston Astros 4-3 on Tuesday night for their fifth consecutive victory.

Garrett Hampson began the Kansas City 10th on second as the automatic runner, replacing Vinnie Pasquantino. Hampson raced home when Perez led off the inning with a single to center against Wander Suero (0-1).

“We’re gonna play hard,” Perez said. “We’re gonna do our best, especially right now. We've got new comfort.”

James McArthur (1-0) pitched two scoreless innings for the win.

Perez and Nelson Velázquez each had two hits for the Royals. Bobby Witt Jr. and Maikel Garcia each drove in a run.

Nick Anderson, Chris Stratton, John Schreiber and McArthur combined for five scoreless innings of four-hit ball in relief of Royals starter Cole Ragans.

“These guys are incredible,” Ragans said of the bullpen. “They pitched incredible. They kept us right there. That’s really, really big.”

Witt's biggest contribution may have been a diving stop on a two-out single by Jeremy Peña in the top of the 10th. Had the ball gotten past the young shortstop, the Astros likely would have taken the lead.

“I thought it did have a chance of going through,” Peña said. “I’ll shout out to Bobby Witt. (He) made a nice play.”

Yordan Alvarez had four hits and two RBIs for Houston, which had won two in a row. Peña had two hits and scored a run.

The Astros loaded the bases with three straight singles to start the first inning, but Ragans limited the damage to a run-scoring fielder’s choice for Yainer Diaz.

“I don’t think (Ragans) had his best stuff,” Royals manager Matt Quatraro said. “That’s a good lineup, and they made him work. (But) if we turn that double play in the first or he’s able to get Alvarez out one of those times with two strikes, he’s coming out of there with one or maybe no runs. Credit to him really."

Alvarez singled in Peña with two out in the second, and then doubled home Mauricio Dubón in the fourth.

Ragans surrendered 10 hits in five innings for Kansas City. He struck out five and walked one.

Houston went 5 for 18 with runners in scoring position and left 13 runners on base.

“We had some opportunities to get some guys in (with) less than two outs," Houston manager Joe Espada said. "We just couldn’t capitalize.”

Houston right-hander Cristian Javier was charged with three runs, two earned, and five hits in 5 1/3 innings. He struck out four and walked three.

Maikel Garcia’s sacrifice fly in the fifth stopped Javier’s scoreless streak at 15 innings to start the season. Witt drove in Hunter Renfroe with a two-out triple, and then scored on an error on third baseman Alex Bregman.

TRANSACTIONS

Astros: Placed LHP Framber Valdez on the 10-day injured list with left elbow inflammation. They selected the contract of Suero from Triple-A Sugar Land to take his place. The Astros also recalled LHP Parker Mushinski from Sugar Land and optioned RHP Blair Henley to the minors. To make room on the 40-man roster, the Astros transferred RHP Oliver Ortega to the 60-day IL.

Royals: Acquired RHP Colin Selby from Pittsburgh for minor league pitcher Connor Oliver. To make room on the 40-man roster for Selby, LHP Josh Taylor was moved to the 60-day IL. The Royals also signed RHP Zach Davies to a minor league deal.

UP NEXT

The Astros and Royals continue their three-game series Wednesday. RHP Spencer Arrighetti will make his major league debut for Houston against Seth Lugo (1-0, 0.71 ERA).

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