Brace yourselves: football is coming

Published 7:27 pm Wednesday, August 1, 2018

As of this Thursday we’re just five weeks away from the NFL season. It’s another year of fresh starts and renewed optimism for fans, like me in my Dallas Cowboys jersey with my fingers crossed for some uplifting surprises in our receiving corps (go get ‘em, Cole Beasley.)

But first we’ve got the Hall of Fame game Thursday night in Canton, Ohio, which marks both the induction ceremony of eight players into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday and the start of preseason in a game between the Baltimore Ravens and Chicago Bears at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.

I have mixed feelings about preseason football. Mostly I’m just anxious for the start of the regular season, but isn’t it odd to get invested in games that have no bearing on regular season standings? Do these games matter at all?

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It matters for ticket sales, of course, but the pro-preseason side of the ball also has some valid points. Most of the benefits in these five weeks of preseason action are for young players that are getting in front of maddening NFL crowds for the first time to audition on the field for regular-season playing time.

Furthermore, while the starters may only see a quarter of playing time in the first two weeks of games, the third week is treated like a “dress rehearsal” for the regular season, ESPN senior writer John Clayton wrote back in 2012.

“Coaches keep their starters in the game past halftime because in Week 4 most of the starters are rested in an attempt to protect key players from injuries that would carry into the season,” Clayton wrote. “Also, position battles need to be resolved over the next week, and offenses and defenses have to work on their timing in Week 3.”

One of those position battles will be in the Ravens quarterback rotation. The team’s starting signal caller Joe Flacco isn’t expected to be throwing many passes this game, if any at all, according to an Associated Press report.

This gives coach John Harbaugh and his staff the chance to look at first-round draft pick Lamar Jackson and veteran Robert Griffin III, who is attempting a comeback after not playing last year, according to the report.

I’m most excited about seeing Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky in an overhauled offense under first-year coach Matt Nagy. I grew up in a household filled with North Carolina Tar Heels fans, and I love seeing this former UNC quarterback in the pros.

Not that this offense was terribly exciting last year for Trubisky’s rookie season. He ended his debut year with a 4-8 record in 12 starts, with seven touchdown passes and seven interceptions making things even more lukewarm. But he did also rush for 246 yards, the most by a Bears quarterback in a season since Kordell Stewart’s 290 yards rushing in 2003, according to a column by Chicago Tribune reporter Brad Biggs.

Best of luck to Trubisky’s Bears. It’s going to be interesting to see who rises to starting spots on each of the 32 teams this preseason.