Hey, in case you missed the news, football’s back, baby.
This Thursday, the Eagles host the Titans. We’ll fight traffic down to the Linc or invite friends to watch on TV. We’ll celebrate the end of the 204-day drought since we cheered the guys in green.
Sounds great — except, well, spoiler alert: It’s the pre-season.
It’s going to be lousy football. After 45 minutes, that buffet they’ve put out to whet your appetite is likely to leave you with a bad case of agita.
In case you’ve forgotten, there are two priorities for NFL coaches in these faux games:
1) Nobody gets hurt, dammit! This means, mostly, that key players won’t see that field at all.
Last summer, head coach Doug Pederson iced Darren Sproles, Jason Peters, Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor and other starters through the entire four-game August tour. He’s still demurring on whether quarterback Carson Wentz takes a snap this Thursday.
Safe bet: Roster body Cody Kessler and late-round rookie Clayton Thorson (this year’s Mike Kafka) will throw more passes this month than Wentz and Nate Sudfeld. Remember Joe Callahan last year?
2) Coaches must reveal nothing. The paranoia is that a future opponent may sniff out a play or a trend, so preseason strategies fall short of Pop Warner game plans. Vanilla is too exciting a term for the flavor you’ll see Thursday night. Let’s go with gruel.
Need proof? Okay, name five exciting plays you’ve seen over your years of watching preseason football. Well, there was that McNabb-to-TO bomb in their first game 15 years ago. After that . . .
Look, I don’t want to spoil the fun. Maybe you’ll find clues Thursday night to how the Eagles will use Miles Sanders in the passing game. Maybe one of the new edge rushers distinguishes himself.
But don’t forget what a mirage these games can be. Two summers ago, Patrick Robinson seemed an inept defender. Then the actual season began and he was superb as the slot corner.
For every Corey Clement working his way from obscurity to the roster, there are dozens of pretenders like Paul Turner, Na Brown and Henry Josey. They fool us by resembling all-pros against other teams’ third-stringers. Hey, I’ll confess to hyperventilating over Tim Tebow a few summers back.
Still taking the preseason seriously? Just remind yourself: Sam Bradford went 10-for-10 against the Packers in 2015 and we envisioned Sammy Sleeves becoming grand marshal of our first Super Bowl parade. How’d that work out?
The preseason is such an abysmal product that even NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell tried to scale it back. He received no support from owners, who cherish this money grab they can sell to TV and foist upon season-ticket buyers — at full price.
Coaches use it to sort out the last five guys on their roster. Mostly, these are the names you hear announced as healthy scratches 90 minutes before the opening kickoff.
Hey, we’re all starving for some semblance of Eagles football (particularly in light of the Phillies’ swoon), so we’ll all watch this Thursday and the next three. It’s not like we’ve got other plans.
But recognize it for what it is: A chance for lesser players to get the kinks out and better ones to conduct sideline interviews with Dave Spadaro in spotless uniforms. An audition for pluggers whose future rests in the CFL and a prayer that no one’s season ends with a shredded knee.
Mostly, it’s a bridge to get through August. Hey, once Thursday’s slop-fest is over, it’s just 32 more days to real Eagles football.