For some players, the preseason means absolutely nothing (see Adrian Peterson). For others, the preseason is simply a dress rehearsal (see Aaron Rodgers). But, for the majority of the league, these four games are an audition.
Whether it’s fighting for a roster spot, vying to be the first off the bench, or competing for a starting job, there is a great deal of pressure that weighs down on the players involved in these battles, as it’s their job, their livelihood that they are so desperate to hold onto.
Now, two weeks (and a couple games) into the preseason schedule, many players have cemented their roles and spots on their respective rosters, but others are not enjoying the same comfort, as they have not auditioned well.
As if the pressure wasn’t enough to start the preseason, these players who find themselves on the losing ends of position battles, or even on the roster bubble must have be hearing Queen in their head all day.
No, Dak Prescott’s play is not going to be putting Tony Romo on the streets, and Stephen Morris doesn’t have Andrew Luck screaming “let me out,” but these players may find out the terror of knowing what this world is about.
Players Under a Stressful Amount of Pressure
Less than a month ago, pundits were suggesting the Jets hadn’t signed Ryan Fitzpatrick because they wanted Geno Smith to start. (Ridiculous, I know!)
As we know, Fitzpatrick and the Jets agreed on a contract, and he is now slotted in as the starting quarterback. Meanwhile, Geno is beginning to feel the pressure that goes along with being on his last leg in the NFL.
In the Jets’ two preseason games, Geno has continued to look like the bust we have already labelled him as, completing just 51.9-percent of his passes for 126 yards, one touchdown, and one interception, which is good for a not-so-good 61.7 passer rating.
With Fitzpatrick set to start, and the Jets investing a second-round pick on Christian Hackenberg earlier this year, there is a maximum of one open roster spot for a quarterback.
Unfortunately for Geno, second-year quarterback Bryce Petty has certainly outplayed him thus far, posting a 101.6 passer rating.
Smith will have to use these last two preseason games to prove that he deserves that last quarterback spot, as failure to do so could be the end of his short-lived NFL career.
Although butts are not the cause, Mark Sanchez is fumbling away his last opportunity to be relevant in the NFL.
Sanchez’s three turnovers in the first two preseason games has resulted in Trevor Siemian taking a firm lead in the battle to pivot the defending Super Bowl champions, and it will be a very steep uphill climb for Sanchez to earn the trust back of his coaches.
The Broncos proved last season that they don’t need stellar quarterback play to win. Instead, they need someone who can protect the ball, make the smart throws, and get the ball out of their hands quickly.
To this point in his career, none of those traits would be accurate descriptions of Mark Sanchez, and he hasn’t used this preseason to prove any of us otherwise.
If Sanchez is not able to beat out a second-year, seventh round pick, he will spend the rest of his career as a backup at best.
When things aren’t going well, we are always reminded that it could be worse. But it really couldn’t be that much worse for Bucs rookie kicker Roberto Aguayo, who already had pressure weighing down on him after he was surprisingly taken in the second round of the 2016 draft.
Aguayo converted every single extra-point he attempted in college, and fortunately for him, preseason stats don’t count, as he missed the first one he attempted in the NFL. He has also missed two of his five field goal attempts, and his shaky leg has invited in a lot of pressure: the last thing a kicker needs.
You can bet the Bucs coaching staff won’t be too upset if their offense stalls out a few times in opposing territory, because Aguayo needs to regain his confidence before the regular season starts. If not, prepare for all of the Ray Finkle memes, which isn’t a bad thing for us viewers.
With Colin Kaepernick missing the first two preseason games, Gabbert had the opportunity to close the book on the 49ers quarterback competition; but, Chip Kelly has yet to name a starter, and that’s largely a product of Gabbert’s up-and-down play.
The former tenth-overall pick’s preseason stats are being saved by one 43-yard touchdown pass. If you remove that pass, he’s a shoddy 9/18 for 89 yards.
Now that Kaepernick is ready to suit up in Week 3, against a Packers team that he’s shredded in the past, there is a lot of pressure on Gabbert to put up a big performance. If not, Kaepernick will seize his job back, and Gabbert will likely never receive another chance to start in the NFL.
Everyone involved in the Joey Bosa vs. Chargers debacle
This has gone way too far, and a conclusion does not appear to be in sight.
If what the Chargers are saying is true, then Joey Bosa and his representatives are in fact asinine. However, taking to the media to publicize this may not have been the best move for the Chargers organization either.
The Chargers front office doesn’t sound keen on giving into Bosa’s hardball tactics, and the rookie, defensive end may wind out sitting out this season, now that the Chargers have pulled their best offer.
This is a mess, and everyone who is involved is to blame. Each party is under a lot of pressure to repair this relationship, and get the third-overall pick on the field in 2016.
Players Under a Marginal Amount of Pressure
Titans receivers not named Tajae Sharpe or Rishard Matthews
I’m looking at Kendall Wright, Andre Johnson, Harry Douglas, and Justin Hunter here.
The rise of Tajae Sharpe, and Rishard Matthews being one of the Titans’ free agent splashes, have the two of them locked into roster spots, and every other receiver feeling the pressure of being on the roster bubble.
Earlier in the preseason, the Titans made headlines when they traded away second-year receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, who many believed would turn into their number one receiver down the road. This trade may have been a move to ensure all four of the aforementioned receivers make the team, but I see it as a wake-up call to the rest of the receivers on the roster: alerting them that no one is safe, and I’m not alone in that thought.
Tennessee has made their intentions to commit to the ground game crystal clear, and we are unsure of how many roster spots will be available for wide receivers on an “exotic smashmouth” team. The Titans are also operating under a new general manager, Jon Robinson, and would love to wash away all of the previous regime’s mistakes.
This could result in one or two of these men looking for a new home before the regular season gets underway.
The first-overall pick in the 2016 draft is starting to feel a little bit of pressure, but it’s not pressure to win the starting job, it’s simply to show Rams fans a glimpse of the talent that made him the first-overall pick.
Through two preseason games, Goff has posted a lousy 69.5 passer rating, and is the only Rams quarterback to take a sack (actually, he’s taken three). Although his numbers may have looked a lot better in Week 2, he was bailed out on a few bad balls (most notably his touchdown), and a couple of them could have gone the other way. While it was an improvement, he has yet to show us much.
At this point, it’s clear that Goff isn’t ready to lead an NFL team, and this team is awfully sick of their 7-9 ways; however, I don’t think 2-14 is the direction they are looking to go in.
Goff needs to use the remaining two preseason games to show more improvement, and give teammates, coaches, and fans something to look forward to.
Just to be clear, there is no position battle going on here, and there is no way a healthy Brock Osweiler doesn’t start Week 1 of the regular season.
However, after signing a $72-million contract in the offseason, Osweiler has not looked worthy of that kind of money. In his first two preseason games, Osweiler is a combined 16/26 for 151 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. Although those stats don’t look horrible, if you’ve watched the games, he has not been able to move the chains, and has been especially bad on third downs.
With expectations blossoming in Houston, as it appeared they finally had a franchise quarterback, Osweiler’s average-at-best performances have resulted in some pressure to get this offense sorted out before the regular season starts.