It's the only time in the NFL where winning doesn't correlate to the scoreboard. Sure, winning in the preseason nourishes confidence in the locker room and optimism in the fanbase, which can create positive momentum heading into the season. Losing, however, can just as much focus a team as they prepare for the regular season battle. Unless a team looks lost or so outmatched that fans have to start lowering the lifeboats, the preseason scoreboard doesn't tell all that much about an NFL team. It also may not be the thing that tells most about a win strangely either.
This past weekend, Tony Romo heard a crunch as he was sacked in the first series in what was supposed to be a dress rehearsal for the upcoming season. Atlanta Falcon's Julio Jones sat out of practice today after suffering an ankle injury and their first-round draft pick, Keanu Neal, will miss the first half of the season because of knee surgery. Baltimore's Ben Watson and Brandon Oliver both tore their Achilles this past weekend, and as I write this, AJ Green injured his knee in the Bengal's third preseason game.
Winning isn't what matters most. Finding meaningful reps for guys you hope develop into contributors, identifying roster weaknesses, simulating game speed, and keeping your stars healthy makes for a real win in the preseason.
The scoreboard hasn't been friendly so far to the Carolina Panthers. They are 1-2, losing to both the Baltimore Ravens and the New England Patriots. Cam Newton, who had looked great in the few snaps of the first two preseason games. In what is traditionally the game where a team puts their starters in for the longest, the third game, Cam played poorly. Poor decisions led to turnovers and just an underwhelming overall performance. More concerning, the preseason has revealed a noticeable dropoff from 1st to the 2nd and 3rd string teams and clear problems of depth and experience in the Panthers secondary. Oh, and that the team is two weeks away from kickoff and they don't have a reliable punter.
As Cowboy fans are needing Dak Prescott to as big of a star this season as he has been a sensation in the preseason, Carolina fans are discussing the relation between Dean Marlowe's hamstring and the Panthers potential acquisition of Donte Whitner. Sure we may have our concerns about our rookie cornerbacks or depth on the offensive line, but we also get to focus on Kelvin Benjamin's healthy return, Shaq Thompson's pending stardom, the continued dominance of Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechly, and Cam's quest for another league MVP accompanied with a Super Bowl MVP trophy.
No doubt there are some questions and uncertainties that the preseason revealed in Carolina, perhaps more than we wanted to admit heading into the season. If Carolina can get through their last preseason game without major injury, we should really chalk this preseason up as a win despite what the scoreboard says.
By the Professor, aka Tony Dunn