Cowboys’ Prolonged RB Battle Showcases Value Of A Four-Game Preseason Schedule
A lone figure stood vigil at a podium in Pittsburgh on Sunday afternoon, mindful of his own frustration, forgetful of how he became the quarterback of the world renowned Green Bay Packers. That Aaron Rodgers voiced his disappointment and irritation at losing his top wide receiver in a game that held no personal significance is well within his right. That he did so in front of a microphone is unfortunate.
A subtle stream of not-so-private jabs centering around the current four-game NFL preseason has been going on amongst owners and players for more than a decade. A renewed emphasis on this subject was provoked over the weekend when Packers Pro Bowl wideout Jordy Nelson tore his anterior cruciate ligament against the Steelers during an exhibition contest.
“It’s difficult to lose a guy like that in a meaningless game,” Rodgers told reporters afterwards. When asked if he preferred to eliminate the preseason altogether, Rodgers responded: “I think a lot of players around the league probably do. At least cut it down, maybe, to a couple.”
Rather than gaining perspective with age, Rodgers might be accused of losing some in this situation. Nobody made more use out of his allotment of preseason snaps during his first three years in the league than Rodgers, who transformed himself from a West Coast kid with a funky throwing motion to the rightful heir to Brett Favre.
Rodgers, for all of his brilliance on the playing field, would be hard-pressed explaining how a shortened preseason slate would have prevented Nelson from crumpling to the ground while making a cut all by himself. And, without trying to sound irreverent or unfeeling toward Rodgers’ particular situation, what was Nelson even doing on the field if the game was truly serving no purpose?
The undeniable fact is that the current four-game exhibition format accomplishes far more good than otherwise. Just ask Tony Romo.
Romo, another raw prospect who, once upon a time, pulled himself up by his own bootstraps in preseason play to become the franchise quarterback of the mighty Dallas Cowboys, is currently experiencing first-hand what a couple of extra games can mean for a team. After a career-best year that was defined by a career-high in handoffs, Romo finds himself wondering who will be the featured back for the Cowboys in 2015.
The Cowboys will wrap-up their training camp schedule in Oxnard on Friday without having found a replacement for the departed Demarco Murray. The primary cause is one that Rodgers can relate to.
Unlike in Green Bay, each of the assorted ailments that have plagued Cowboys tailbacks Darren McFadden and Joseph Randle have been minor, and occurred on the practice field.
A hamstring injury kept McFadden sidelined for most of the initial two weeks of camp, and caused him to sit out the preseason opener. There alongside of him was Randle, nursing an oblique injury. And though both played in Sunday’s loss to San Francisco they combined for just 10 carries, as head coach Jason Garrett eased them back into a normal workload.
Garrett was less than enthused with what he saw.
“We didn’t run the ball very well,” Garrett said after the 49ers game. “Obviously we were trying to control the line of scrimmage and didn’t do a very good job of that.
“It was good to see those guys out there, but we obviously didn’t run the ball real well.”
Garrett has said upon numerous occasions that there is no substitute for in-game action. With training camp winding down quickly, in-game performance from the remaining two preseason contests could very well be the tie-breaker that decides the outcome of this slow-developing position battle. Two games, mind you, that would not be on the schedule were Mr. Rodgers running the NFL neighborhood.