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Notes: How the shortened NFL preseason has divided coaching strategies

The Athletic takes a look at the contrasting ways NFL coaches are handling a three-game preseason.

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Detroit Lions v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The cut from four preseason games to three in 2021 has changed the way many NFL coaches are managing preseason playing time.

The Athletic’s Stephen Holder examined how coaches across the league are handling this year’s change. He argues that while NFL coaches are typically pretty predictable, he’s noticed some interesting variations.

Holder notes that some of the league’s stars have had wide contrasting playing times — Patrick Mahomes playing into the second quarter for a total of 32 snaps this past week, while Russell Wilson has yet to take the field at all this preseason. The piece has many other examples and even makes a note of what happened with the Lions.

“Colts head coach Frank Reich said Wednesday that he will not play a majority of his starters this week, as previously planned, because Detroit head coach Dan Campbell disclosed to him that the Lions won’t play theirs.

‘“We kind of re-evaluated,” Reich said. “Most of our starters aren’t going to play.’”

The piece also has a strong statement from Sean McVay on his decisions regarding Matthew Stafford, who will not be playing in the preseason at all.

This shortened preseason, of course, comes after not having a preseason in 2020 at all. Holden says it’s hard to tell if players were affected by that, but many analysis pieces I’ve come across blamed the lack of 2020 preseason for poor play, especially when it came to rookies adjusting to life in the NFL.

At the end of the day, it’s preseason, and the world loves to argue over the merits of very specific preseason moves — starting him, sitting him, whether to risk injuries, etc. It’s an interesting article piece on the varying decisions of coaches across the NFL, and only time will tell if those decisions made any real difference in the regular season.

And onto the rest of your notes.

  • A great profile from The Detroit Free Press’ Dave Birkett on running back Craig Reynolds. “We call him Netflix,” Lions running backs coach Duce Staley said Wednesday. “That’s what he was doing, right? On the couch watching Netflix, and all of a sudden he came in, got a couple yards and scored a touchdown.’”

  • In case you missed it, former Detroit Lions tight end Luke Willson has retired.

  • The Detroit News’ Justin Rogers takes a look at linebacker Tavante Beckett, who might be a tad small for the role (only in the NFL can 5-foot-11, 220 pounds be considered small for anything) but he’s still going strong with the Lions as they head into the final preseason game.
  • The boys in Honolulu blue wish good luck to Michigan’s Taylor North in the Little League World Series tonight. Let’s goooooo.

  • This is from three years ago but I just discovered it yesterday so now you get to see it — did you know Jared Goff is actually pretty funny? I’m ashamed to say I didn’t. YouTube started suggesting videos I might like and they were correct. In 2018, he pranked a college football team by dressing up a transfer quarterback out to take the starter’s job — the players are clearly rattled, it’s hilarious. Their faces when he reveals himself! Worth a watch if you haven’t seen it before.

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