I wanted to briefly write a response to something interesting Kevin Colbert said. Lost between questions about Le’Veon Bell was his response to the NFL’s decision to axe the 75 man cutdown. Instead, there will be only one round of cuts at the very end of camp. Colbert said he wasn’t a fan of the decision, saying he was “not sure it was going to help that group.”
And hey, who am I to disagree? Colbert lives and breathes the nuances and inertia of the league. And the counterpoint he makes is valid and something that I honestly hadn’t considered.
“That’s a little worrisome to me, quite honestly, because like Alejandro Villanueva was cut at 75 and we had a week prior to the 53 cut to get him in, work him out and maybe see how he can fit,” as Dave Bryan wrote earlier this week.
It’s true that the opportunity to work out those cut players is gone, or at least, shifted into the regular season. Villanueva came from that group. So did Ross Cockrell, though the Steelers waited until after final cuts to scoop him up.
But ultimately, Colbert’s concern comes down to exposure. In that, the players won’t get enough of it. That’s where he and I are on opposite sides. Getting rid of that cut gives the players exposure. A final preseason game to soak up a ton of reps and put on tape for the rest of the league to see.
The fourth preseason game has always been one for rest. Starters aren’t supposed to sniff the field. It’s for the backups. So why are the players, the backups, who need it the most, get their pink slip days before? The bottom of the roster is the most deprived part of a team. Reps during camp and the first three games are limited. There’s almost none in that third contest, the tune up for the starters, who generally play the first half and the second string finishes things out.
The fourth game is the best chance for the last guys on the roster. The Jake McGee’s and Christian Brown’s of the world. And the exposure they get in stadiums is greater than what you’ll see in a workout. It gives that player tape to send around to the league in order to get noticed. To get those workouts, tryouts, and ultimately, a contract.
While yes, the opportunity to try out those players gets pushed back, they’re clearly not eliminated. Tryouts are common place throughout the regular season. For most teams, Tuesday is their workout day where scouts and in Pittsburgh at least – Colbert – are tasked to evaluate the guys they bring in. That’s how Mike Hilton earned a roster spot late last season and now, has a chance to make the 53 man roster.
It’s the best of both worlds. More snaps, more tape, better evaluation, and still the chance to bring the player in for a personal look. It’s rare the NFL works in favor of the little guy. This change does and is something I guarantee those players embrace.