How Will a Shortened Preseason Impact Talent Evaluation and Veteran Teams?
In his latest Monday Morning Quarterback column, Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer took a look at the impact that COVID-19 is already having on NFL teams as they attempt to create some semblance of normalcy in a very non-normal preseason.
Breer talked to Las Vegas Raiders General Manager Mike Mayock about some of the many challenges that teams will face. One topic with special relevance to the Chiefs is the impact of a veteran-heavy roster. The Chiefs aren't an "old" team, but they do have remarkable consistency from their championship roster to their Run It Back campaign, even with the recent losses of Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and Damien Williams.
Breer and Mayock touched on the leg-up that veterans have in this offseason and Mayock unpacked how all teams, including the Chiefs, may have to pay special attention to their personnel staff for feedback on younger players who won't see much playing time without a preseason in 2020.
Yes, veterans have an advantage. That doesn’t mean, by the way, that Joe Burrow or Chase Young won’t be in a position to succeed—Cincinnati and Washington are too invested in those guys not to do everything they can to make their rookie years work. But for a sixth- or seventh-round pick, it’ll be tough. Coaches are naturally going to be more trusting of guys who have established knowhow, with so much less time to work with.
“I think the age-old battle between coaches and personnel people, as far as rookies vs. veterans, gets enhanced this year,” Mayock said. “Coaches traditionally trust veterans that they’ve seen do it in the past. The way a rookie earns that trust is throughout the offseason program, rolling into minicamp, rolling into training camp, rolling into preseason games, and then ultimately into real game action. When you eliminate a big percentage of that….”
And so, as Mayock says, it will likely be up to personnel folks to advocate for younger guys who may not satisfy the immediate need to have experienced hands on deck.
“Maybe there’s a veteran player that you feel like, ‘Oh, this guy knows what to do’, and for the first quarter of the season there might be some security that comes with that,” Pace said. “So then there’s another player that has tremendous upside, and there might be some initial growing pains, that you let walk out of the building or try to clear to your practice squad. I do think there’s a balance there. We’re always trying to be long-term in how we build our team, and get players that have upside, players that we can develop.
“That’s where it’s important as a GM/head coach, we’re on the same page with that vision.”
Specific for the Chiefs, they're in good hands in terms of having leadership who is willing to listen to "personnel folks." General Manager Brett Veach has consistently tinkered with the bottom of the Chiefs' roster, and with enough success to earn the trust of Head Coach Andy Reid. While Reid is certainly making the calls for who plays on Sundays, I'm confident that Veach is able to tell Reid when he believes a late-round draft pick or UDFA is worth a longer look, even in a shorter preseason.