The first week of the preseason gives off the excitement that real football is near. We already had the Hall of Fame Game, but the first official week of the preseason kicks off with an 11-game slate on Thursday night. While many will be watching to see how players look on the field, we can take away just as much, if not more, from the coaches in these games, especially this early in the preseason. So with that in mind, we’ll go game-by-game and take a look at what we could expect from these coaches in Week 1 of the preseason.
New York Jets vs New York Giants
Most know how I feel about Sam Darnold’s future (not good) with the Jets but thank goodness this is about coaching and we won’t have to watch Darnold long anyway as it is game one of the preseason. In Adam Gase’s first game as head coach of the Miami Dolphins in the preseason, they won 27-10. With the pressure in New York, I think he wants to come out a winner early to keep the questions easy and positive for the week. The Giants, meanwhile, return Pat Shurmur at head coach with Mike Shula as offensive coordinator. Of course, they would like the media to subside a little as well, but at least they were there last year and expectations were and are low already. How they guide Daniel Jones through his snaps will be under a microscope. I think Gase and Loggains try to light it up a little and should be able to do so simply by what they call in the third and fourth quarter with all the defensive subs in.
Indianapolis Colts vs Buffalo Bills
Colts head coach Frank Reich is one of the best play-callers in the game already. The Colts won three preseason games last year and all of them were within two points. I don’t think it is quite as important to him this year to win those games and he doesn’t have to worry too much about his players learning his system and practicing it at game speed. Avoiding injuries will be a much more important outcome. The Bills and Sean McDermott need to win and they will want to instill a winning mentality. Buffalo did win three of four last year and that really didn’t help any but I think they want to continue that and get some momentum going. It seems like so long ago that they actually had a guy quit the team at halftime of the game, but that was just last season.
Atlanta Falcons vs Miami Dolphins
We have already discussed the Falcons for the Hall of Fame Game, this is their second game. As a coach, the second game is a lot smoother in so many ways so regardless of plans, I think the Falcons are in more of a groove. Unfortunately, I do not think they place much value at all on trying hard in these games. They went 0-4 last year in preseason and we saw how that season ended up so maybe they should. (As a coach I think there needs to be that competitive attitude every single play of every single game at every single level). On the other side, Brian Flores is coming in for the Dolphins and comes from the Bill Belichick school. Every preseason game may be very vanilla but he wants the guys to play hard and learn to compete in everything. There is no time or plays off and I think Flores will employ that same kind of attitude.
New England Patriots vs Detroit Lions
This is the preseason game of the week with Bill Belichick going against Matt Patricia. I love both of these guys. I sure hope Patricia gets it going in Detroit. Coach Belichick’s guys will be focused, working hard no matter who is in, and trying to get things perfect. The Lions never got it going in the preseason, going 1-3 last year, then they started the regular season with a horrible game vs the Jets. I think they get their minds right here and this is a tough defensive game with the mentality Patricia has tried to enforce there over the past year.
Jacksonville Jaguars vs Baltimore Ravens
I like Doug Marrone’s pickup of John DeFilippo here to go with Nick Foles. And Coach DeFilippo needs to practice calling good plays, which was a mixed bag with Minnesota last year. He is lauded as a good play designer, which is right in my wheelhouse for success. I think that carries over into all levels of guys who will be playing. Marrone likes to win preseason games, too, going 3-1 last year. The Ravens went 5-0 last year in preseason and have quarterback depth for the preseason, though we won’t see much of what the regular season offense could look like under Lamar Jackson.
Washington Redskins vs Cleveland Browns
Everyone wants to see these Browns. Tons of weapons, Baker Mayfield is more experienced, and a full offseason under anyone other than Hue Jackson is kind of exciting. I think the coaching staff for the Browns will have spent a lot more time with the starters honing their timing and the subs haven’t gotten quite as much work as the Redskins have, so that could lead to some rough moments once those players get in the game. Remember, Freddie Kitchens was only promoted to offensive coordinator for the second half of last season, while Gregg Williams was the interim head coach. Kitchens will be navigating these waters for the first time Jay Gruden has to win this year if he’s going to keep his job. He has questions about the quarterback on top of other pressure and absolutely has to start well. We’ll get our first look at Dwayne Haskins to see if he can be the player to give Washington some stability under center.
Tennessee Titans vs Philadelphia Eagles
Mike Vrabel has the attitude (which is not always bad) that I think keeps him from any stock in winning preseason games at all. I think he actually doesn’t mind losing so he can SAY that they don’t care about preseason. They went 0-4 last year and that was the MO. Meanwhile, Doug Pederson pretty much tackles it the same way and sure doesn’t want anyone hurt. The Eagles went 1-3 last year and were outscored by 50 points in the preseason. This is the battle of two teams that want to show nothing, want to hurt no one, and want to just get back to the house. It might just be a terrible game, the worst of the week.
Houston Texans vs Green Bay Packers
Bill O’Brien comes from the Belichick school of if we are going to do it, do it right, so they grind for the preseason a bit more than others. New offensive coordinator Tim Kelly for the Texans will be toying a bit and has to learn to call plays, so I believe he won’t just be passing time. This usually means higher point totals for that team. The new Packers staff will probably want to do well early on as well to get things kicked off right. There will be pressure on Matt LaFleur early to prove he’s more than just a Sean McVay disciple and that the offense can be brought to new heights after it ran stale with Mike McCarthy.
Carolina Panthers vs Chicago Bears
Interestingly enough, these two teams were two of the highest-scoring preseason teams at 26 points per game each (take away the Bears HOF Game). I think Matt Nagy runs an offense that if not prepared for, is going to be able to move the ball. Ron Rivera doesn’t mind winning in the preseason and doesn’t mind playing aggressively either, so that’s a good combo.
Los Angeles Chargers vs Arizona Cardinals
The Chargers certainly didn’t mind playing conservatively, passing a very limited amount of times in two of their four preseason games (16 vs the 49ers and 19 vs the Seahawks). Their points were not a by-product of great offense overall. They keep it bland and when Philip Rivers is in, they don’t let him throw downfield much. He’s also not in very often.
While a lot of new offenses don’t want to reveal too much, the Cardinals, on the other hand, need to practice their hurry up. They need to get some film on the linemen at a pace and see how it affects them. They also want to get this thing going with some points. I look for it take a quarter to get going but later in the game, they will move the ball at will with receivers making post-snap adjustments and they win this going away. I can’t wait to see the changes with Kliff Kingsbury at the helm.
Denver Broncos vs Seattle Seahawks
This is the Broncos’ second game and I discussed a little of what I thought in the opening write up for the HOF game against the Falcons. Game two they will be a little more comfortable which may give them the edge over the Seahawks, who when the game is over with, we may all want to watch paint dry instead. I am anxious to see if Brian Schottenheimer, whom I really like as a person, makes any changes to the offense at all. They say they are not going to and of course if not, it will be a long season again. Running the ball more than anyone in the league with Russell Wilson at the helm simply makes every defense they play very happy. And to be honest, if the team you are playing wants you to call plays the way you are, it’s probably not good for the offense. The Seahawks managed to lose all their preseason games last year, so the urgency to win might not be there.