Image Credit: Associated Press
Any athlete in any sport has heard a coach scream some version the following phrase:
“Practice does not make perfect! Perfect practice makes perfect!”
Not only is that one of the more unmotivating phrases in a coach’s bag of motivation, but it’s also utter nonsense.
Maybe you were a swimmer and had trouble getting your backstroke up to par, or perhaps you played college football and struggled with a reach block.
That’s why teams hold training camp.
Practice is nothing more than a chance to get better. It’s 90 minutes to improve, work on deficiencies, try new footwork, or test a new play. Athletes do not achieve perfection within the first 30 minutes of the first afternoon session.
But, that’s not the world we live in, especially when it comes to the NFL. All parts of the game, from one-on-one drills to full 11-on-11 game-like situations are reportable news.
From all reports, rookie defensive end Nick Bosa is in the middle of a fantastic first training camp.
Here are some Bosa highlights thus far:
1. He beat tackle Joe Staley on three snaps.
2. Achieved high praise for his “refined technique and excellent hand-eye coordination.”
3. Finished a series with a third-down sack.
4. Forced a fumble that was recovered by the defense.
Indeed, it’s excellent to learn he understands the 49ers’ defense and is not looking lost on a blitz or continuously getting blocked out of plays. I certainly want to hear that the 49ers’ first-round pick is performing well against his veteran teammates.
I don’t want to be the fly in your Christmas pudding, but let’s all take a collective breath on Bosa’s camp performance.
We’re Missing Some of the Story
Observing training camp from the stands is like wandering into a theater with minimal idea of the full plotline.
Think of it as not knowing anything about Romeo and Juliet, and only watching Act II Scene II of the play. After, you’re asked to write a full outcome of the two tragic characters based on 192 lines of acting.
Even seasoned 49er beat reporters do not have the entire plotline even if they attend OTAs, minicamp and training camp.
Bosa beating Staley makes for a great highlight, but the reporters do not know if the 49ers’ offense was trying out a new blocking scheme or a new play at that moment. From the stands, it merely looks like a win for Bosa.
If a defensive line coach wants to see what Bosa looks like a looping from the wide-9 inside to the A-gap, but Bosa gets pancaked, it doesn’t mean Bosa is struggling. It’s just part of his day at work.
I want the coaching staff to test new ideas and Bosa’s overall ability. Failure is part of the learning curve, not the primary purpose for a practice recap.
Look at it another way.
We’ve read the tweets and notes about quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo missing throws or missing wide-open receivers.
Without knowing the play, or if a coach told Garoppolo to look at his secondary target, a declaration of Garoppolo looking “rusty” or comparing completion statistics among quarterbacks have no place in objective journalism.
These may be minor details, but critical plot points to that would provide a much more accurate and unbiased overview of practice.
But What We Have Read Is Good News
I’m excited to see if Bosa can live up to his reported ceiling and what he could bring to the defense. The 49ers have invested heavily in a fearsome front four, and Bosa can be one of the cornerstones for seasons yet to be.
We haven’t read that Bosa isn’t a coachable player or isn’t engaged in the film room. We haven’t learned that he’s missed practices due to injury, or that his hamstring is giving him any trouble. Further, it appears he’s finally over the core injury sustained in his last year at the Ohio State University.
These are unobservable elements that set a solid foundation for professional athletes and begin to point the arrow toward Week 1 success for Bosa.
Of course, this weekend’s preseason opener will be the first test. Bosa won’t see many repetitions against starting tackles or tight ends, but he will get a taste of the strength and speed of professional football.
The NFL has done a fantastic job of forcing football in our faces all year; it never ends and never truly begins. By the time training camp rolls around, fans are so starved for news, reporters take meaningless statistics and include them in stories. These roll up into Twitter debates that are some of the lowest forms of sports conversation.
I’d like to see Bosa end the preseason with a handful of sacks, including one against Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, or notch a few tackles for loss.
These in-game accomplishments are better indicators of overall success than a fake training camp sack.
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