Rather than the traditional organized team activities (OTAs) or minicamps, teams have been holding virtual meetings to begin installing the playbook and going over schemes while players continue to work out on their own in accordance with social-distancing guidelines.
The wonders of technology do help in allowing teams to still meet with players under these conditions, but it does raise the question of how these changes could affect play on the field. New NFL On CBS analyst Charles Davis says the closest parallel we can make is to the 2011 lockout year. Though admittedly not a perfect comparison (as Davis puts it, the stakes are much different), it is an interesting one to consider.
In that 2011 season, when the two sides were still negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement deep into the summer, teams and players weren’t allowed to meet at all. In comparison, this offseason is better from a connectivity point of view, as teams have been able to meet virtually. It is in this way that Davis believes that, though the offseason is markedly different, teams will still be able to prepare for the fall.
“They couldn’t meet, they couldn’t talk, they couldn’t do anything,” said Davis of the 2011 season. “In this case, at least with our technology and being virtual and being connected, that has to help at least some. We won’t know the full results until we see how long they go before they can meet with each other on the field. I think the training and the learning will go as well as it can go in today’s era.”
Davis is quick to point out, however, that those meetings only take you so far. At some point teams getting on the field and practicing together needs to happen. How long that time away from the field extends will determine what we see on the field on Sundays.
While the league continues to work to determine how best to keep players, staffs and fans safe in returning to football, the rest of the offseason has gone on virtually. Teams filled their needs through free agency and the draft, and two in particular stood out to Davis in how well they did so: the Baltimore Ravens and Miami Dolphins.
On the other side, one of the more interesting or head-scratching offseasons belongs to the Green Bay Packers. Davis wasn’t necessarily surprised by the move to get quarterback Jordan Love (he did note in his final mock draft that the team could look QB in the first round), but he was surprised to see them go without taking a wide receiver in what was a talented receiver class.
“I don’t have as much problem with getting the quarterback because the last two times they have made big moves for quarterbacks it was to trade for Brett Favre and draft Aaron Rodgers,” said Davis. “As an organization, they ought to get the benefit of the doubt on that one. But I was surprised, as the rest of the draft unfolded, that in the deepest receiver crop we have had in 20 years, they didn’t draft a single receiver.”
It feels safe to say that Packers fans were surprised by their team’s moves in the draft as well. Overall, Davis is excited to watch several storylines play out in 2020. And he is thrilled to be doing so as part of the CBS Sports team, joining the network’s broadcast booth alongside Ian Eagle.
“It means the world to have the CBS Sports family led by Sean McManus deem me worthy first and foremost,” said Davis.
He then pointed out his good fortune in broadcast partners through the years. At FOX, Davis worked with Thom Brenaman, Gus Johnson, and Kevin Brukhardt just to name a few. Now, he joins Eagle, who has been covering the NFL for the network since 1998.
“I have been very fortunate, and this continues my incredible fortune to be able to work with someone of Ian’s talents, because he is as good as it gets,” said Davis.
The team of Eagle and Davis along with all of the NFL On CBS sports broadcast crew, will have football fans covered from the opening of the season up through Super Bowl LV on CBS in February of 2021.