Preseason. So what? So’oto!
Year after year, the thought of preseason football is met with “just play meaningful games already.” It’s hard to argue with the players that training camp is too long when fans ultimately feel the same way. But for new guys trying to break in–especially UFAs–and for coaches who now have to make their yearly gut-check decisions on larger camp rosters, I would argue preseason is a necessary evil precisely for the types of moments displayed by Vic So’oto last night.
So’oto has quietly been making a name for himself all camp long. However, practice is practice and game situations offer something more concrete from which to base roster decisions. Last night, set against the backdrop of Chiefs head coach Todd Haley’s ill-advised decision to play his starters for most of the fourth preseason game, So’oto showed up large. The BYU defensive end turned Packer linebacker registered 1.5 sacks, a forced fumble, a pick-six and drew a holding penalty. So, while the preseason does have its dull moments … oh, say 95 percent or so, the other five percent produce opportunities for guys like So’oto to make rosters.
And eventually make real game impacts.
Remember Sam Shields? Shields was a rookie UFA who turned heads in camp last year and showcased his exceptional speed and flashy cover skills in preseason games. Not only did he crack the roster, but he found his way onto the field in the nickel and produced not one, but two, INTs in last season’s NFC Championship game. To be honest, Shields probably played more pure corner than listed starter Charles Woodson did in Dom Caper’s mad scientist defensive schemes.
For all its faults, preseason games create live bullet opportunities for guys to show why they should be in the league. It pushes veterans to steer clear of complacency. With good coaching and management, it has the potential to make good teams great and great teams better. So, to preseason, I say I don’t love you, but I respect you. And to Vic So’oto, I say: “Welcome to the World Champion Green Bay Packers. I hope your stay is impactful.”