With the regular season just around the corner, NFL watchers will approach this preseason schedule with the same sense they usually have - it doesn’t matter much who wins and loses, but the subplots that arise could have an impact when the real games start. This season is absolutely no different, after an offseason that saw big moves, seismic stories and the fastest unretirement in league history.
Whoever your team may be, the preseason brings a sense of anticipation, a chance to see some of the new players in action, and the dread that a key player might get injured. These will all feature prominently in the headlines over the next four weeks, but perhaps the most interesting subplots of the preseason will come from the mix of already unfolding stories with live action. The games, in this case, are as much a way of advancing storylines as they are practice for the season proper. And these stories in particular could get interesting as players pad up for the first time since winter…
How much have the Dolphins advanced?
Adding Tyreek Hill has made the Dolphins a “win now” team: you don’t trade for an elite WR without intending to get him in the endzone early and often. But the importance of a big step forward got even greater this week as the Fins lost a first-round pick in 2023 thanks to a judgement against them for illegal approaches to Tom Brady and Sean Payton. Stockpiling first-round picks had been a key strategy given the team’s intent to draft a new quarterback if Tua Tagovailoa doesn’t shine this season. That card may be off the table now, so new head coach Mike McDaniel needs to show he can win with the team he’s got.
What will happen with the Browns and Deshaun Watson?
The arrival of as gifted a quarterback as Watson in Cleveland will have led to some bettors rushing to the sportsbook at the best casino in Toronto to back them for at least a playoff run. Then came the judgement in a disciplinary case which saw him suspended for the first six games of the season. Now the NFL is appealing that decision with the intention of extending the suspension to at least a full season.
Among the fallout from this case is the pressure that now falls on Jacoby Brissett - an able deputy but no Tom Brady - to carry the Browns in a season where they’re paying Watson big money to sit. Suddenly, Cleveland is the team everyone wants to lose, and Brissett will be hearing the boos that should be ringing in Watson’s ears.
Will Garoppolo be traded before the season starts?
The footage of Jimmy Garoppolo throwing passes at the 49ers trading camp answered one question regarding his future. He will be ready to play as the season gets underway. However, it’s not going to be as the starter in San Francisco, so what does the immediate future hold? Trade rumours have circulated linking him to Pittsburgh and Seattle, both teams with uncertainty over their starting QB berth in 2022. Garoppolo would be an inked-in starter for either of those teams, but will they be happy to offer the draft picks the Niners will want in return?