The Jacksonville Jaguars have their first preseason game in just over a week and there has already been some chatter about sitting players to avoid injuries. It is a fine line that coaches have to walk when getting a player ready for the regular season while also trying not to overexpose them to a potential injury.
Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone was asked on Saturday if he was going to change his approach to the preseason given the injuries the Jaguars have dealt with recently.
“It’s a good question. We’ve had long discussions on that,” Marrone answered. “I think there’s so many things that go into that as far as—first question you’re going to ask yourself is, ‘What does this player need? What does he have? What is he going to need to be ready for the season?’ That’s the number one priority. I think a great example, Curtis Martin, who obviously I have a ton of respect for, well early in his career Curtis would play. Later in his career when I was with him I was in staff meetings where we’d say, ’Well he just needs about six carries and he’ll be ready for the season.’ Of all the preseason.”
Obviously, certain positions require different amounts of work to get ready for the regular season and how tenured a player is matters as well. In Marrone’s example, Martin was a long time productive veteran and knew his body and what worked for him, so just a handful of carries to get a few hits was all he needed at a certain point in his career.
The fear of an impending injury is always there however, no matter how much you prepare or what scenario the player is in.
“Every one of us has the same anxiety of the preseason. When I say that I’m talking about us as coaches, right here in this building, when we put a player out there,” Marrone continued. “Such a fine line to have to get someone ready for the season, but all of us are sitting there and in the back of our mind we’re thinking the same thing. You do not want to lose anyone to injury, but in the same sense, I feel like that in practice, too. Where you’re always—it’s part of the game, it’s out there, and you’re trying to do everything you can for safety and it’s something that will be discussed. But I would never sacrifice a player maybe not being ready for the season because we’re saving him in the preseason, does that make sense? So I think that’s the first way I look at it. Then after that, you could become more cautious depending upon maybe it’s a little banged up, a little bit of depth here, maybe there’s depth in the position that you don’t feel like—God forbid if something does happen.”
As mentioned, it’s a case-by-case situation and a tough line to walk. Each player needs a certain amount of things to get properly prepared for the season, but coaches struggle with toeing that line and really, the struggle is finding the line itself to toe.
“So I think there’s a lot of factors that go into it and that’s what we’ll look at when we start, and I think that’s why I’ve always liked the practicing against another opponent for a couple [days],” Marrone added. “Normally I would like to get two the first two weeks, because you can get a lot of work done and it’s a controlled environment. Then maybe you don’t have to put them out there as much in those preseason games which has been my philosophy. So the first one, our guys will get a lot of work, and if we want to play the cautious side we could. We have that ability because they’ve gotten a lot of work in during the week, and then we just have to make decisions as we go. I think it’s case by case, though.”
Based on what Marrone is saying I won’t be surprised if we see the starters a little longer than normal in the first two weeks and perhaps get pulled a little faster in the third preseason game and then minimal, if at all in the fourth.