New York Jets general manager Joe Douglas is suddenly equipped with a unique opportunity to improve the depth chart thanks to our new world.
Unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures. Not just in the United States of America, but across the world, the human race has put that sentiment into action.
The National Football League is no different in this regard. The NFL and NFLPA are scrambling to make things work, and through that process, a major opportunity (and challenge) has hit the desks of front offices from coast-to-coast.
According to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, the NFLPA has informed the players of two major developments.
- There will be no preseason.
- Each team will begin camp with an 80-man roster, not 90.
Updates from NFLPA call with players tonight:
– No preseason games in 2020
– Union still pushing for longer ramp-up period in camp
– Roster sizes expected to be 80 to start camp
– General agreement on voluntary and high-risk opt-out
– General agreement on stipend if games lost
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) July 21, 2020
The likelihood that undrafted and under-the-radar-type players receive a fair shake this coming season has now totally flown out the window, which means the better talent evaluators have a shot to clean house.
No, I don’t mean “clean house” by its most straightforward definition. I mean clean house by way of improving the roster in rapid fashion. Front offices will be flying blindly. Many more mistakes (cuts) and gems will come from the 2020 draft class.
The difference between 90 and 80 doesn’t seem like much on paper. And in reality, there really isn’t much difference. That is, until, no preseason games are factored into the equation.
Imagine an undrafted rookie such as Robby Anderson attempting to make the squad under these circumstances. Signed by Mike Maccagnan after the 2016 NFL draft, the Teaneck, NJ native impressed the organization that summer.
But that impression could only be driven home by real NFL action.
All @youngamazing9 on this play. Doesn't the CB with the double move but makes a tough catch look EASY. 42 yard TD pic.twitter.com/o8DSnYAocu
— Joe Blewett (@Joerb31) August 22, 2016
These aren’t your North Dallas Forty pros anymore. The practice pace is casual and the hitting is nonexistent camps these days. What was once a drag ’em out contest that promoted “water is for the weak” now almost resembles country club-type vibes.
How do under-the-radar players climb the ladder in such an environment? There’s only so much that can be showcased.
Teams already know the broad strokes. They understand what the player looks like in film and what he’s going to look like on the practice field in August. What they don’t know is how they’ll handle the speed of real NFL play.
Imagine the Hard Knocks season of 2010 without the preseason. Not only would it have impacted the Jets, but the New York Giants may have never found Victor Cruz, the future salsa-dancing stud who rocked New Jersey with 145 yards and three touchdowns in six grabs.
LeBron James knew what had happened:
Victor Cruz going nuts on the Jets tonight on #MNF. Undrafted rookie from UMass. He's gonna have a job this year for sure
— LeBron James (@KingJames) August 17, 2010
Without a preseason, perhaps Cruz opens some eyes at practice yet never makes the final 53 due to a lack of opportunity. Some guys simply get it done when it’s time to get it done. And without the opportunity, a guy like Kurt Warner—who started his career with the Green Bay Packers—never makes it to the St. Louis Rams.
Cutting down or eliminating the preseason after 2020 would be a mistake. It makes sense for the here and now, as does the 80-man training camp roster (as opposed to 90). Anything less than four games in 2021 would drastically alter the fate of so many youngsters looking to earn a living in this game.
No matter how it shakes out post-2020, Joe Douglas and the Jets are facing a unique opportunity at this very moment.
The flow of under-the-radar guys on the market will be more plentiful than ever, and until the cat’s out of the bag (a player’s actual playing ability), the better talent-evaluating front offices in the NFL have a shot to more rapidly improve its depth charts. Or… more rapidly decrease the overall talent of the roster.
This crazy season now puts the emphasis on scouting. Which front offices will come away as the victors?