“Opening Day, and here’s the first pitch, and the season’s over.” This was a joke from Family Guy about being a New York Mets fan. It’s obviously a bit of an overreaction so early, but believe it or not, it’s the reality of some. The Green Bay Packers started Training Camp this week. It’s the start of a new era in Title Town. There’s a lot to be excited about. But as usual with the first few practices of Camp, you have those fans that jump to conclusions with every moment. I like to refer to this as, overreaction season.
Some fans just can’t help themselves. They want to know what their team has immediately. So, those first throws between Receiver and Quarterback they’re critiquing accuracy. Those first matchups in the trenches they’re staring at footwork. Two-minute drills they’re losing their minds if the Offense isn’t moving the football. What does it mean? What does this tell them about their team’s chances of success this season?
The first week or two of Training Camp, there is absolutely no reason to overreact. But yet, we see it everywhere. Social media, articles, podcasts, I even had a coworker bring up the fact that the Defense seemed to “win practice” on Day 1. He said, “looks like the offense has a lot of work to do or we’re in trouble.” We’re talking about practice! Not just practice, but the first practice! Let’s dial back these expectations a bit.
What to Expect
I get it. Everybody wants that glimpse into the future. They want to know, should the get their hopes up? Or should they prepare for disappointment. Honestly, expect none of that.
These first few weeks of camp, when you look at the Quarterbacks throwing to their Receivers, they’re working on timing. Yes, we saw Jordan Love and some of his offensive weapons having little workouts in the offseason together. But, it’s not like they were spending weeks with each other practicing for 2 hours a day. They maybe had a small handful of these workouts. And not all receivers were there. So, while they may have some familiarity, they’re still working on the complete connection.
Every practice has a plan. Coaches know better than to throw the kitchen sink at their team Week 1. While there’s a chance everybody in attendance knows the complete playbook, coaches aren’t going to run it. The Offensive coaches could walk into day 1 with the plan to get the Running Backs involved. They’ll call all the runs, screens, and checkdown routes they feel like to see how their backs handle it. Then day 2, it’s on to the Tight Ends. Where are they at right now and what do we need to work on? They don’t care who “wins” practice, they’re there to teach their team, and learn about their players.
Sometimes, the results are pretty much expected.
Defense Always Wins the First Week
If there’s one result you can pretty much take to the bank with most teams, it’s that the Defense will win the first week. If they don’t at least come close, then you might have a big problem with your defense.
What could be said about a Defense’s play-to-play function? To execute by reaction. They can line up however they want. They can design a play however they want. But when it comes down to it, they have to react to what an offense does. In the first few weeks of camp, their job could be easy.
Offenses are still trying to build their chemistry. They’re still working on getting in sync. This makes a defense look brilliant sometimes. Those little mental mistakes of a receiver cutting left instead of right, a defender can jump right in and pick that ball off. A lineman forgetting which gap to cover could allow a defender right into the backfield. The offense’s job varies play to play. But sometimes a defense’s job can stay the same. So, those mental mistakes can easily be blown apart.
Don’t judge your team’s offense until you’re a few weeks in. That’s when you can maybe start to look at your offense and question whether or not they’re ready for week 1.
Watch the Young Bucks
If there’s one thing I like about Training Camp and Preseason, it’s the future. Your team could be Super Bowl Champs with a starting roster set in stone, but you still need those future prospects. Maybe your star Tight End is nearing retirement. Maybe the contract is expiring for your star Cornerback in two years, and he may not return. Guess what, General Managers are well aware of this and are already searching for replacements. It’s the future of your team.
Many veterans are likely to take a lax approach to training camp. They know they’re making the team, so why push it? They also want to insure they don’t get hurt and ruin their season for nothing. So, what’s the point of risking it? Many of them are going to go out there and just make sure they are seen. After that, practice is over.
But for the young guys, they’re fighting for their career. You might think that anyone drafted in the first 3-4 rounds is safe, but that’s not always true. They have to go out and prove that they were worth their draft pick. If you were picked first overall, the pressure is on to show your team that you were worth it.
Training camp is indeed exciting for everyone when they see it all kick off. But the reactions are often ridiculously over the line. Football is back my friends, don’t spend your time worrying these first few weeks. Spend your time reveling in that you made it. The offseason is over and it’s time to get ready. Go Pack Go.
Greg Meinholz is a lifelong devoted Packer fan. A contributor to PackersTalk as well as CheeseheadTV. Follow him on Twitter at @gmeinholz. for Packers commentary, random humor, beer endorsements, and occasional Star Wars and Marvel ramblings.