There may be a full slate of preseason games tonight, but the reality is most teams only have one objective for week four of the preseason - make it out of the game without any major injuries to key players. Most of the roster decisions have already been made, and coaching staffs are already looking towards their week one opponents.
Instead of focusing on the action tonight, let's instead take a look at ten things we've learned from first three weeks of the 2013 preseason.
- Having two good quarterbacks on the roster is virtually essential to having success in today's NFL. The 2013 Bills may make a strong case that having three good quarterbacks is important. With both Kevin Kolb and EJ Manuel likely out for week one, undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel will be the starter for Buffalo. Even if Manuel is only out for one week, the quarterback situation in Buffalo. certainly doesn't look like a recipe for success.
- There are a number of reasons why franchises struggle to consistently have success – meddling owners to just simple bad luck. Other times, such as is the case in Miami, it's poor evaluation of talent. Most glaring is the “competition” for the starting running back spot. Lamar Miller, who has twice the YPC average as well as far better upside than Daniel Thomas, still hasn't been awarded the job by the Dolphins' coaching staff. If Miami can't better evaluate the players on their own roster, it's bound to be a long season for the 'Phins.
- It's becoming more popular to draft kickers and punters as opposed to signing them as undrafted free agents, but that doesn't necessarily mean the teams drafting specialists are getting more talented players. For evidence of that, look no further than Baltimore and 2012 undrafted kicker Justin Tucker. He converted 91% of his kicks last year, and is 3-3 in the preseason, including a 57 yarder. He's also had eight touchbacks in three games, and looks to be even better than 2012.
- Not every coordinator that deserves a shot at being a head coach in the NFL gets an opportunity soon enough. For yet another year, Bengals' defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer has received well deserved praise thanks to HBO's Hard Knocks series. His outstanding work with the players on and off the field goes largely unnoticed outside of Cincinnati when HBO's camera's aren't around, but simply put he's one of the best coaches in the league. If he's lands a head coaching gig next season, it still won't be as soon as he deserves.
- Teams often shy away from running backs who got a ton of carries in college, and Le'Veon Bell is unfortunately a good example of why. After touching the ball over 400 times during his final season at Michigan State, Bell has struggled to get healthy enough to stay on the field for the Steelers. He's got plenty of potential – will he ever get a chance to show that this season?
- When you lead the league in dead money against the camp, it's almost impossible to be competitive. And even though it's just the preseason, it certainly looks like Oakland is going to prove that to be true. Their best player may be the 35 year old Sebastian Janikowski, and with a lack of elite talent at virtually every other position it's easy to imagine the Raiders being the worst team in the league.
- It's taken quite some time, but it appears as though the Chicago Bears have finally assembled a quality roster from top to bottom. Gone are the days where the Bears' defense is left to pick up the slack for a struggling offense. Quarterback, running back, and wide receiver are now areas of strength for Chicago, and the offensive line looks to be coheisive for the first time in years. Green Bay remains the favorite in the NFC North, but don't sleep on the Bears.
- Even when you reportedly have the mind of a 40 year old, it's still easy to over think your selections in the NFL Draft. For example, passing on a player of defensive tackle Shariff Floyd's talent to instead select a center is a move that could end up costing the Cowboys for awhile. Now that Jay Ratliff is set to miss at least six weeks, Floyd's presence on the defensive line would be a welcome sight for the new look Cowboys defense.
- Transitioning from a 4-3 to a 3-4 is difficult in almost any situation. Doing it without elite rushers off the edge, like in New Orleans' case, is brutal. The defense has looked shaky in the preseason, and look for those ups and downs to continue for most of the season. Of course, with Drew Brees on the other side of the ball, the Saints' defense will have a little more wiggle room than most other NFL defenses.
- Far too often, teams hang on to players that don't deserve a roster spot because they invested too much in them to admit their mistake. The best front offices, however, won't waste time in moving on. That's the case in San Francisco, where they traded away 2012 first round pick AJ Jenkins before he ever caught a pass in the regular season. As the rookie salary cap makes it easier to move on from draft picks earlier, look for this to become a more common occurrence.