You should watch preseason games differently. Here's how.

Don't watch them like regular season games

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Jaguars fan tweeted at me after I posted a story about the four things I wanted to see from the Jaguars against the Ravens. Among my list, a win was not something I wanted to see. 
It’s the preseason.

I don’t care about the record. Neither should any Jaguars' fan. 

But it brought to mind the difference between how I (and others) watch the preseason vs. the regular season. This can be difficult if you aren’t in the habit. We have been so conditioned to watch football a certain way that retraining our eyes and minds is an active defiance of what we have been taught over the years.

So, without further ado, here is how I watch preseason games:

1. 1s vs. 1s – If you want to keep score, do so only when the starters are on the field against the starters. This can be difficult since some veterans won’t play in early or late preseason games. On top of that, when the starters sit down on one side of the ball, they may still be in on the other side. For example, if Calais Campbell plays, he will likely sit long before someone like, say, Chris Conley or A.J. Cann. I like to keep two scores…one for when the Jaguars’ offensive starters are in against the opponent’s defense and one for the Jaguars defense when the starters are going against the opponent’s starters.

2. Offensive flow -- this is a bit subjective unless you know exactly what the plays are supposed to look like, but I always watch for the way the offense moves. Does it look in synch? How is the communication between the quarterbacks and receivers? Does the line work well together?

3. Are the defensive linemen winning one-on-one? Blitz packages and exotic pass rush schemes are not common in the preseason, especially not in the early games. So you have to watch the linemen play. I know, “I want to watch the football!” Just take some time to watch the defensive line on running plays or passing plays. Are the Jaguars’ linemen winning their matchups? Are they getting pushed back? These are great ways to gauge how especially young players are doing.

4. Who keeps playing? As the game goes on, are there some players that are playing deeper into the game than others? This usually indicates that the coaches want to take a closer look at the player. If they can make some plays, it’s a good sign that they are going to be in the conversation for the final roster.

5. Did everybody stay healthy? Of course, this is the number one key to the preseason, but I’m putting it last because it’s a question that can only be answered in the affirmative after the game.


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