NFL should shorten preseason, Zach Wilson, Deshaun Watson and more

Zach Wilson, New York Jets. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Zach Wilson, New York Jets. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

The NFL shortened the preseason from four games to three last year, but based on recent trends, it might be time to go another step.

Yours truly would like to offer the NFL a suggestion.

Reduce the preseason. Again.

Last year, the league expanded to 17 regular-season games, and in turn, dropped down to three preseason tilts. The idea was simple in its most-basic form: reduce what doesn’t matter, increase what does.

And to the point, NFL head coaches have continued to show you how much preseason doesn’t matter.

When asked how many preseason games are needed to be ready for the regular season, one current offensive coordinator told FanSided his team needed zero games.

“We can evaluate our roster without any games,” texted the coach. “A few joint practices and an inter squad scrimmage.”

This same sentiment was echoed by a general manager, who felt the preseason was also unnecessary.

However, one prominent front office executive felt somewhat differently, pointing out how a Pro Bowler from one of his previous teams didn’t make the roster until his performance in the fourth preseason game.

Still, take last week for example. All 32 teams were in action. Only 16 projected starting quarterbacks threw a single pass. Few played more than a series. And most of the squads which eschewed playing their top signal-caller also sat a vast majority of their starters.

Moving forward, it’s expected we will see a few more starting quarterbacks grace the field before the regular season, but many will continue to sit, preserving their arms and health for what it counts.

This wouldn’t be a problem, except it’s increasingly becoming a bad look for the NFL.

The league continues to demand season-ticket holders pay for every home game, including exhibitions. This was always a tough dollar to fork over for most, but now with coaches treating these games as glorified scrimmages more than ever, the quality is awful, and the meaning is dwindling.

While the preseason isn’t likely to go away, it’s very likely to shrink further in the coming years. The NFL isn’t going to stop at 17 games in the regular season. It would be shocking if the slate isn’t soon 18 contests, with nine home and away instead of the current imbalance. When that happens, the preseason will undoubtedly become a two-game sprint.

For the league, games aren’t going away without replacements because it means less money. The NFL, obviously, isn’t in the business of having its pockets emptier.

But in the way of meaning, the preseason has long been trending towards irrelevancy since the days of teams playing six games in the summer (1970-77), usually with each seeing starters for a prolonged bit of action.

These days, the preseason is a necessary evil for fans, teams and players, save for a few true guys on the bubble of their organization’s final 53-man roster.

What’s the right answer? Maybe it’s one game, a mandated intra-squad scrimmage and a weekend’s worth of join practices.

Just a suggestion.

Power rankings

Top 10 current WR duos

1. Cincinnati Bengals – Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins
2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Mike Evans and Chris Godwin
3. Los Angeles Rams – Cooper Kupp and Allen Robinson
4. Las Vegas Raiders – Davante Adams and Hunter Renfrow
5. Miami Dolphins – Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle
6. Los Angeles Chargers – Keenan Allen and Mike Williams
7. Minnesota Vikings – Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen
8. Seattle Seahawks – D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett
9. San Francisco 49ers – Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk
10. Pittsburgh Steelers – Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool


"“We’re coming up to it. It’s coming up,. The season’s coming up. We’re going to be good for the season.”"

– Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson on his self-imposed contract deadline

Jackson is standing firm on the notion he’s done negotiating for a contract extension once the regular season begins. This means the Ravens and general manager Eric DeCosta have roughly three weeks to make a deal happen.

If Baltimore and Jackson remain at odds, we could see the Ravens use the franchise tag next year, while Jackson gets to wait for Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert sign potentially market-setting deals from the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Chargers, respectively.

It’s a risk that could well cost one side a fortune.


We’re back this Tuesday, streaming like on YouTube at Noon ET!

Random stat

The Washington Redskins have a wild stat to their credit.

In 1966, Washington set an NFL regular-season record, scoring 72 points in a victory over the New York Giants. However, they also hold the mark for allowing the most points, losing 73-0 to the Chicago Bears in the 1940 NFL title game.

As a footnote, only one other team has ever scored 70+ points in a regular- or postseason tilt, with the 1950 Los Angeles Rams doing so in a 70-27 win over the Baltimore Colts.

Info learned this week

1. Zach Wilson hurt, but the Jets are fortunate overall

The New York Jets appeared to be headed for Jimmy Garoppolo. Instead, some uncharacteristic luck.

Against the Philadelphia Eagles in their preseason opener, the Jets saw starting quarterback Zach Wilson scramble, juke, and crumble. Wilson looked to be seriously hurt with a non-contact knee injury, and while he’s expected to miss 2-4 weeks with a torn meniscus and bone bruise, it could have been far worse.

So what now? If Wilson misses 2-3 weeks, he could play Week 1 against the Ravens. If he’s out for the full timeline, he’d return in Week 2, with veteran Joe Flacco likely filling in.

For New York, Wilson being injured would have been a total disaster. This entire season is about finding out whether Wilson is more than the first six games of last year (57.4 completion rate, 4 TDs, 9 INTs) or the final seven tilts when he threw for five touchdowns against two interceptions, albeit with a 53.9 completion percentage.

Now, it seems the Jets are still on course to get their answer.

2. Lance looked good for Niners in ’22 debut

The 49ers are giving the controls to Trey Lance. So far, so good.

Playing on Friday night against the Green Bay Packers, the second-year man threw for 92 yards on 4-of-5 passing with a touchdown before giving way to backup Nate Sudfeld. For Lance, it’s a small but positive step for a youngster who only played in five games as a rookie (two starts) and threw a total of 71 passes.

Once the real games begin, the question with Lance will be about his accuracy (57.7 completion rate in ’21) and whether he can decipher what defenses are throwing at him. The North Dakota State product had a year to learn from the bench, but how much will that help? It’s the key question for a San Francisco team with designs on the Super Bowl.

3. Eagles’ youngsters look great in preseason opener

On Friday night, Jalen Hurts, Nakobe Dean, and Jordan Davis showed why the Philadelphia Eagles are generating ample hype.

Facing the Jets, Hurts was perfect, going 6-for-6 for 80 yards and a touchdown. Even without A.J. Brown targeted once, the Eagles moved the ball at will, scoring 14 first-quarter points between the first and second teams.

Meanwhile, Philadelphia saw fruits from the much-ballyhooed rookie defensive tandem of Davis and Dean. Dean, a third-round linebacker who slipped down draft boards due to injury concerns, racked up five tackles to finish second on the team. Davis, the first-rounder who starred in front of Dean at the University of Georgia, constantly pushed the pocket, being disruptive inside.

It’s only a start, but it’s a good one for an Eagles team with eyes on the NFC East title.

4. Karlaftis shines for Chiefs in early action

George Karlaftis was thought to be a steal when selected 30th-overall. Maybe that’s the case.

Of course, we’re talking an absurdly small sample size of 24 snaps, but the Purdue product was everywhere in Kansas City’s 19-14 loss to the Chicago Bears on Saturday afternoon. The rookie notched a sack while constantly providing pressure with an array of pass moves, including inside swim, bull rushes, and speed around the edge.

For the Chiefs, their biggest question mark entering camp was their pass rush. Last year, Chris Jones led the team with 9.5 sacks. Nobody else had five. Frank Clark notched a measly 4.5 sacks. It was a mess, resulting in 31 team sacks. Only the Atlanta Falcons, Detroit Lions, and Eagles had fewer.

Suddenly, Kansas City has reason to believe the pass rush will be solid, if not a strength. The Chiefs still have Jones, along with the newly-signed Carlos Dunlap and Karlaftis. That duo will rotate with Clark, who has slimmed down in what amounts to a contract year.

It’s early, but Kansas City should be very happy with Karlaftis’ tape from Chicago.

5. Cowboys already showing bad signs with one key problem

Mike McCarthy really, really needs to clean up his field. Too much yellow on it. Again.

The Dallas Cowboys led the league in penalties last season. Then, they lost to the Niners in the NFC Wild Card round, being flagged 14 times. On Saturday evening against the Denver Broncos, Dallas took 17 penalties, costing it 129 yards.

Maybe the Cowboys are unaware, but they aren’t talented enough to overcome the nonsense. And while this is a preseason game, it speaks to a bigger problem. McCarthy should have spent the entire summer harping on the need to play smart football, to avoid the negative yardage. Instead, Dallas looked sloppy and undisciplined once more, something of a staple for McCarthy’s teams in recent years.

The Cowboys have potential. Dak Prescott is a quality quarterback. The defense has playmakers at every level. CeeDee Lamb is an elite receiver.

None of it matters if Dallas stops itself every week.

Two cents

The Arizona Cardinals are only three rings short of a circus this summer.

After an offseason of Instagram scrubbing and all-caps statements from quarterback Kyler Murray and his agent, the Cardinals relented. They signed Murray to a five-year, $230.5 million extension with $160 million guaranteed. All good, right?

Nope. First, the homework clause. Then the clause was taken out. Then head coach Kliff Kingsbury challenged Murray over how hard it is to call plays. Then, on Friday, Murray called plays against the Bengals.

Maybe none of this matters come Week 1 against Kansas City. Maybe the Cardinals push everything aside and win a ton of games, threaten the Rams in the NFC West and have a nice playoff run. It’s all possible.

Or, maybe all the chaos matters. Maybe Murray’s bizarre whirlwind matters. Maybe Hollywood Brown being arrested and DeAndre Hopkins being suspended matters. Maybe all the noise, all the conversations having nothing to do with improving, matter.

Put me down for the latter.

Inside the league

Aidan Hutchinson is a freak of nature. You saw it on Friday night.

Hutchinson played his first game with the Lions in a 27-23 defeat to the Falcons, punctuating his playing time with a lightning-quick tackle for loss.

Back in February, I spent two days in Thousand Oaks, Calif. with Hutchinson, and it was clear then the former Michigan star could be an instant impact for whoever selected him. The ability to move laterally while also having power and explosion was obvious, and it was on full display despite only playing a handful of snaps.

Hutchinson, also a Michigan native, won’t turn the Lions’ defense around by himself, but he should be a cornerstone for a franchise in desperate need of one.

History lesson

From 1962-65, the Oakland Raiders played their home games at Frank Youell Field.

Adding to the Raiders’ aura, Youell was an undertaker in the Bay Area.

Parting shot

Deshaun Watson’s sudden burst of remorse is both predictable and sad.

On Friday, Watson spoke with CBS Sports’ Aditi Kinkhabwala before the Cleveland Browns’ preseason opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Watson, who settled 23 civil suits for alleged sexual assault and/or misconduct this offseason — with one suit still pending — was seen as having no remorse by Disciplinary Officer Sue Robinson in her findings after suspending the quarterback for six games.

With the NFL now appealing the ruling to its hand-picked arbiter in former New Jersey Attorney General Peter Harvey, Watson suddenly found contrition in his heart for women impacted by his alleged actions:

While it’s good to hear Watson sounding contrite, the timing makes the message hollow. It comes off as a desperate player trying to get a lighter suspension.

The entire episode is ugly, and it’ll likely conclude with Watson sitting out for quite some time.