How many preseason games are needed?

How many preseason games are needed?
August 23, 2013, 11:45 am
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By Rich Tandler and Tarik El-Bashir

The Redskins are only halfway through their preseason schedule. But Coach Mike Shanahan hopes they’re all the way through with injuries. It appears they dodged a bullet last Monday with Kirk Cousins and Barry Cofield, whose injuries are not expected to linger into the regular season. They were not so fortunate in their preseason opener when rookie Phillip Thomas was lost for the year with a Lisfranc injury.

Every year, it seems, the same questions get asked as teams suffer lineup-altering injuries in the exhibition season: Do teams really need four preseason games to get ready for an already grueling 16-game regular season slate? Are the games necessary to give coaches the information they need to cut the roster to 53? Could that be accomplished without subjecting the players to 240 additional minutes of injury risk and general wear and tear? Redskins Insiders Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler debate the question in this week’s edition of Point-Counterpoint.

Tandler: The NFL certainly doesn’t need four preseason games—or exhibitions as they used to be called. In fact, they don’t really need any. Just add a week or two to training camp, schedule two scrimmages against other NFL teams training nearby and then line up and play Week 1. But won’t that lead to ragged play for the first month of the season? Not necessarily. College football does not have preseason games and you see crisp execution all across the country on that first Saturday of play. Sure some of the bigger programs schedule cupcakes early but opening games this year include Virginia Tech-Alabama and Georgia-Clemson. Are you not going to watch those because they didn’t have four games to “get ready”?

El-Bashir: I’m not ready to scrap the preseason altogether. But I do believe that four games are excessive. I would be in favor of cutting the preseason in half and having teams play two exhibition games and 16 regular season, which, as it turns out, is reportedly being discussed by the NFL as the league seeks to improve the preseason product. Trimming the preseason to two games would reduce star players’ exposure to injury, while still providing rank-and-file veterans with ample time to sharpen up and non-established players a chance to earn a job. In my mind it comes down to this: Do Robert Griffin III, Alfred Morris and Brian Orakpo need the preseason? Probably not. But what about undrafted free agent Skye Dawson, sixth-round draft pick Bacarri Rambo or free agent acquisition Darryl Tapp? Dawson can’t show what he needs to while returning kicks in practice; Rambo can’t adjust to NFL speed in 11-on-11s against an offense he’s seen for months; and Tapp can’t make the switch from defensive end to outside linebacker without some preseason snaps. The preseason is a necessary evil, but no one would miss the other two games.