By Anthony Armstrong
With the first round of preseason games behind us, we have moved right into the space of “too damn early” projections about new-look offenses and the “lack of creativity” in play calling. These first games are the 2019 1.0 Beta edition of your favorite team stepping on the field against a group of new faces and playing styles.
Don’t overthink it, and please don’t make it awkward.
My first preseason game in Washington was against the Buffalo Bills at FedEx Field. I was hyped. I knew I was going to get some run with the one’s and was ready to put on a show. I’m just trying to replicate everything that was done on the practice field but against a different opponent.
So, you’re learning on the fly, doing instant analysis to evaluate the way this cornerback is defending you versus what you’re used to seeing from DeAngelo Hall. But at the end of the day, you have to execute the plays.
Kyle Shanahan’s offense is notable for not having any “sights or hots,” as they are built into the route concepts. Sure, the quarterback and wideout have to be on the same page to be successful, but it was a welcome break from the norm. It allowed you to play fast and be decisive.
The game progressed and we found ourselves around the six or seven yard line in eleven personnel. I was in a tight wing position next to Chris Cooley or Santana Moss, I think. I really can’t remember. I know my route assignment and remembered this whole “no hots, no sights” thing.
The ball is snapped, I see McNabb drop back, and someone crosses my face. I only had a five-yard arrow route, but I knew I was the built-in hot route for the concept.
I get to my spot and 5 has just let loose a howitzer right at my chest. I catch the ball and immediately turn towards the end zone. The DB wraps me up but I’m pushing and fighting to get in, and realize I’m close enough to stretch the ball across the line! TOUCHDOWN!!
So, sidebar, I had some celebrations from my days with the Dallas Desperados. I would hit the Dougie every time I scored. But this night, I guess I wasn’t ready.
I get up and start yelling and halfway running to the crowd. I stopped to spike the ball, but it slipped out of my hand. On tape, you can see Cooley pick it up and properly execute the spike. After that it was kind of a blur. No Dougie, no dances. Hell, I didn’t even keep the ball. I just remember folks slapping my helmet, and then the coach said, “KICKOFF!”, so I had to get back to reality really quick.
The first preseason game is for moments like this. For the guys like Cleveland’s Damon Sheehy-Guiseppi to not have to think and just “play ball.” You want to see your young guys go out there and have fun. Simple offensive and defensive play calls take away the mental pressure they will have.
Look for those who rise to the occasion.
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