The NFL is considering shortening the 2020 preseason slate from four games to two to increase the ramping up portion of the offseason schedule as the league hashes out protocols to address the looming COVID-19 pandemic.
If the league cuts their preseason games in half, the Dallas Cowboys could be one of the most affected teams as they write a fresh chapter with new head coach Mike McCarthy.
Currently, the Cowboys are slated to play five preseason games due to their matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game on Aug. 6 in Canton, Ohio. The morning star game of each NFL season is up in the air as the NFL works its way through new safety protocols borne out of the pandemic.
If the game is canceled, and Dallas goes from five games to two, it will give McCarthy and his staff less time to implement and refine their offensive and defensive concepts. The prospect of working with a shortened offseason program is already a challenge McCarthy has been considering.
"How much do we want to give them in the first install? You've always made that decision based on where you think your football team is," McCarthy told reporters on May 27. "And the irony for us is we haven't had our first team meeting let alone being really in-tuned to exactly where we are. I am excited because this is probably going to be the most experienced team that I've coached, so we'll rely on that."
Taking away the extra preseason games hurts all NFL teams as they won't be able to see their teams go against other squads. It would be different if the games were taken away and joint practices were offered to replace them. However, given that the preseason games would be nixed as the league develops more safety protocols, there is no way the NFL would then negate their own work with joint practices.
There has been talk for years of the NFL shortening the preseason. In fact, McCarthy said on Feb. 26 at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis that he would prefer getting rid of the fourth preseason game if it meant having two weeks to finalize a roster and prepare for Week 1.
Said McCarthy: "I think going to the third preseason game makes total sense. I think everybody is in agreement on that. The fact that you can potentially have two weeks to get ready for your opener, I like that. I think it gives you a chance to take a step back because that last week is difficult because you got a number of balls in the air where you're trying to pick your 53, make sure you're giving the young guys the opportunities, but you're also trying to get ready for the opener. I think going to three games makes perfect sense."
If the league follows through with cutting the preseason in half, McCarthy will still have a week, same as before, to finalize the roster, prepare for the Los Angeles Rams, and only have a limited body of work with which to make such assessments and preparations.
Do you think a shorter than usual preseason schedule will be a blessing or a curse for the Cowboys in 2020? Share your thoughts with Mark on Twitter @therealmarklane.
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