Should starters play in the preseason, and for how long? It’s a question asked throughout the month of August and often forgotten by late September.
When a player goes down with injury in an exhibition game, as the Green Bay Packers experienced when Jordy Nelson tore his ACL in 2015, the answer will be an easy no. Players shouldn’t be risked in the preseason.
But when a team makes a slow start to the regular season and don’t look sharp, it’s questioned whether starters were given enough game-time reps in August.
I tend to lean on the sign of being cautious and avoiding too much risk. You can overcome a slow start to the season, but in the Packers’ case, they couldn’t overcome a lost season from Aaron Rodgers if he got injured in an August game.
But new head coach Matt LaFleur faces a tough decision this summer. Mike McCarthy was able to keep the starters on offense off the field for most of the preseason as they had experience playing in his system. That’s not the case this year, and the preseason could be far more useful for this year’s team than in recent seasons.
While the most creative plans will be saved until the real games get underway, it would still give the Packers a chance to get some valuable game time playing in a new offense.
But even if the potential reward is slightly greater for the Packers than in recent years, the risk is still there.
Jake Kumerow had an outstanding summer last year and looked set to make an impact on offense throughout the regular season, but he was injured in a preseason game while celebrating a touchdown. OK — you could argue if he hadn’t landed awkwardly on his shoulder in a celebration, he wouldn’t have got injured. But he could’ve easily suffered an injury earlier in the game.
Injuries are always a risk in the preseason, but the four exhibition games will also give the Packers an opportunity to fully prepare for a new year with a different system on offense.
LaFleur must find the right balance between the risk and the reward.