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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