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NFL will shorten 2020 preseason by half

NFL, 2020 preseason

The NFL has been discussing shortening the preseason for years now.

Many players and coaches were on the same page about playing fewer contests in advance of the regular season and, especially given the current circumstances, it seemed likely the league would finalize plans for a two-game preseason.

Indeed, the NFL announced Wednesday it was cutting the preseason in half. The bookend games (Week 1 and Week 4) will be eliminated, per Pro Football Talk.

The change figures to give the NFL some wiggle room amid potential concerns regarding COVID-19. It should also allow teams a longer “ramp up” period in advance of training camps and workouts.

As Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk notes, this will help limit teams traveling too much and give the coaches and players more time to work together given that the offseason has been conducted virtually to date.

Charley Casserly of NFL.com wrote about expectations from a two-game preseason, suggesting the format would favor “more experienced teams:”

“With significant game action in preseason taken away, call sheets might be limited early on in an effort to avoid overwhelming skill players and quarterbacks new to schemes in which they have little exposure. Organizations with new players at skill positions — particularly at quarterback — would likely emphasize the run game and screens early in the regular season, letting the passing game evolve over time, while teams with strong continuity from 2019 would be better positioned to deploy their full game plans sooner.”

Casserly asserts that rookies and new starters have less time to translate their knowledge of offensive and defensive systems to live game situations than those with more experience working together.

Interestingly, Casserly also stated it would not be a surprise if the majority of starters sit out both games.

In any case, the shorter preseason should allow for more flexibility, both for the 32 teams as well as league officials as they continue to grapple with the best ways to combat the pandemic.