Feldman: Evaluating the preseason is an exercise in futility

Feldman: Evaluating the preseason is an exercise in futility

Credit: Getty Images

ST. LOUIS, MO - AUGUST 30: Cornerback Quinton Pointer #33 of the St. Louis Rams celebrates with safety Matt Daniels #37 after breaking up a catch during the game against the Baltimore Ravens at the Edward Jones Dome on August 30, 2012 in St. Louis, Missouri. The St. Louis Rams defeated the Baltimore Ravens 31-17. (Photo by David Welker/Getty Images)

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by Brian Feldman / FootballStL

KMOV.com

Posted on August 31, 2012 at 1:32 PM

Updated Monday, Oct 21 at 12:03 PM

(FootballStL) -- The Rams have certainly had one odd preseason.  The whole world seemed to be falling after their 38-3 dud in Indianapolis on August 12th.  They looked like contenders while trouncing the Chiefs 31-17 less than a week later.  It was back to a disaster versus the Cowboys in Dallas in week three of the preseason before looking very efficient, albeit against backups, while dismantling the Ravens on Thursday night.

All of the games had excuses for why things went the way they did.  And it always seemed like the Rams were doing the exact opposite of the opponent.  The Colts game planned...the Rams didn't.  The Rams opened up the playbook immensely and got creative...the Chiefs weren't anticipating that.  The Cowboys made the Rams secondary look horrendous...but that was just because of miscommunication.  And the Rams looked excellent against the Ravens.  The Ravens 2nd team, that is.
 
What does this all boil down to?  You can never tell anything about anything in the preseason.  Players look like Hall of Famers in August, only to be reminded that no one cared about covering them until September hit.  
 
Evaluating preseason NFL games is even harder to than evaluating spring training games in Major League Baseball.  At least there you can get a sense of a pitcher's velocity, movement and location.  That's got nothing to do with the hitter he's facing.
 
In football, everything is completely relative to your opponent.  An offensive lineman is only as good as the defensive lineman he's going up against.  If the D-lineman isn't good, the starting O-lineman should pancake him.  It's strength and technique versus strength and technique.  There's not all that much you can evaluate on the surface of just the player.  Maybe how quickly he gets off the ball...but that's about it.
 
A wide receiver can show his speed, route running ability and hands.  But playing receiver is about one thing.  That's getting separation from a defensive back.  And getting separation from a backup isn't the same thing as doing that against a starter.  Again, hard to evaluate.  
 
I asked Jeff Fisher that question after the game and he didn't agree with me.  He said they're evaluating their own players based on what they do and not based on the opponent.  That's fair.  He's the head coach and I'm not.  
 
But that still doesn't answer the question of how you can tell what these guys would be doing against better competition.  
 
Don't get me wrong.  The numbers looked terrific in the Edward Jones Dome against the Baltimore.  In winning 31-17, the offense racked up 355 yards in total offense, averaged 4.3 yards per carry on the ground and went 7-14 on 3rd down.  The defense was another story at the beginning, as it allowed the Ravens second string offense to move the ball down the field on them. 
 
I saw linebacker Rocky McIntosh going absolutely crazy on the sideline saying (in less than G-rated words) that their backups should not be doing this to them.  But in the end, Baltimore didn't get on the scoreboard until the 3rd quarter, so how much is there to really be mad at?
 
It all comes back to the same thing.  Evaluating preseason NFL games is very difficult.  You can't get a read on where a team truly is until the season begins for real.  I don't believe I have to remind anyone that a year ago the Rams were sporting a perfect 4-0 record heading into the regular season.  How'd that work out?
 
Know when we'll know for real how this team is?  September 9th.  Rams and Lions.  Ford Field.  That's when all excuses go out the window.

 

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