NFL training camp 2015: How to watch to stay informed, but not overreact

New York Jet Fans Troll Tom Brady and Patriots at Training Camp

Turn your fantasy football knowledge into cash! We're hosting a one-week $1 million league on FanDuel in Week 1. It's only $5 to enter and first place walks away with $100,000. Enter now and change your lineup anytime until 9/13 at 1:00pm (ET).


Training camp is when the NFL starts to feel real again, but real football is such a long way off.

In the excitement of football starting up again, it's important we don't ignore or over-inflate the importance of what's happening on practice fields across the country because we're sick of talking about certain other things being under-inflated. Like much of the NFL season and the 24/7 news echo chamber that surrounds the league, it is true that training camp gets over-reported, over-analyzed and over-emphasized.

Yet, it is also true that a shrewd and talented observer can glean information while still avoiding the risk of contributing to information overload.

I'll be speaking both to those who may want to attend training camps and those who will simply be "watching" training camp via social media or through the work of team beat writers. However, the general principles are likely relevant for much more than just training camp, as preseason work and really any practice information in general could be looped into these tidbits and tips.

Keep Your Eye Off the Ball

Most action on a football field happens away from the ball.

We're trained by television cameras to watch the ball move from center to quarterback and then from quarterback to either running back or receiver. Following that transition, we might find time to cast our eyes on a defender, but the play is more than likely already over. Yet, that's not anything close to a real approximation of the game itself, where collisions are happening all over the field that affect the outcome of a play, but might not be right around where a television producer has decided is "the action."

Media is just as trained in this as fans, so reports generally focus on a small percentage of players unless someone else is making headlines for a different reason. Overall, though, realize that anytime we filter the game through a lens saying skill position players are more important, we're missing much of what makes the game great.

Enough is enough!

Sitting at training camp is a great way to train your eyes and your body away from the lights of FOX, CBS or ESPN broadcasts. Take a moment to appreciate the steps of the defensive backs or the movement of the receivers. Watch the footwork of the running backs or the way receivers stalk block to set up bigger runs.

The more eyes are trained to watch this, the better one can realize what it should look like versus what some of the less talented members of the team make it look like. This can shed light on why the receiver who made a few big catches or the defender who made a few big hits didn't make the team based on those few plays.

Remember Your Context

Yet, as we take this step from seeing to delving into understanding, the context of the situation is very important.

This is training camp.

It's simple but it bears repeating. Offenses are barely installed, yet alone understood. Defenses are still trying to get their proverbial sea legs and aren't working as a unit in any way shape or form. Some teams see offenses gain ground early on while others see early defensive dominance, but neither team sees both showcase full ability immediately.

Maybe this could be restated as: Take everything with a grain of salt.

As reports trickle out from camp, remember those showcase a small percentage of what went on. If a little-known receiver made a huge diving catch or a late-round pick at defensive back does the same, it makes every single story, but coaches may have seen a dozen bad plays before that. Sure, five really talented writers all wrote the same thing, but all of them may have missed the important context. The same can be said, too, for those watching of their own accord.

It could also be restated: Know what you don't know.

We don't know blocking schemes, routes run or (in many cases) what coverage or play was called in the huddle. If we did, we would have immeasurably more information to judge these players. Coaches do, and it's a big reason that a "name" player during draining camp ultimately fails.

We also don't see interactions in the locker room or between the players and coaching staffs which may undercut on-the-field performance. We don't see the long con of day-after-day grinding toward a collective goal. We don't see the coaches' eventual designs for the team or their preconceived notions of what a player can do. Failing all that, we can't make very great assessments about what we see or take what we hear from the media with anything less than a gigantic grain of salt.

Football is back, but fans and media handing out hardware in July based on light workouts are almost worth just waiting until Week 1.


Turn your fantasy football knowledge into cash! We're hosting a one-week $1 million league on FanDuel in Week 1. It's only $5 to enter and first place walks away with $100,000. Enter now and change your lineup anytime until 9/13 at 1:00pm (ET).

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.