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TWENTYMAN: How loss of preseason affects Lions

The NFL and the NFLPA have agreed on terms to get training camp and football rolling in 32 cities across the nation. As part of that agreement, the two sides have settled on canceling all preseason games and enacting new testing and practice protocols.

The loss of the preseason, coupled with the loss of on-field offseason football activities in the spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will have far-reaching impacts, though it's certainly understandable given the health risks involved.

Here's a look at how having no preseason games will impact teams:

1. Undrafted free agents have a tough road ahead

NFL active rosters across the league last season were made up of about 30 percent of players who entered the NFL as undrafted free agents, per ESPN statistics. The Lions have had an undrafted rookie make the initial 53-man roster out of training camp each of the last four seasons Bob Quinn has been the team's general manager. Will that continue in 2020? It will certainly be harder for those players.

The absence of OTA practices in the spring was the first blow for these young players. That's typically the first opportunity they get to put themselves on a coach's radar and earn a second look against established veterans in training camp.

The preseason games are yet another opportunity for those first-year players to make their mark and prove they can have an impact in a game setting against an unfamiliar scheme and opponent. We've seen a lot of examples over the years of players earning a roster spot because of their performance in the last preseason game, when coaches and front office personnel are wrapping up roster decisions.

With no preseason, undrafted players will have a harder time making their mark in 2020.

2. Green rookies

The preseason is the first opportunity for rookies like Lions first-round pick Jeff Okudah to get some NFL game action under their belt and acclimate themselves to a much faster brand of football at the professional level. The preseason has a different feel, with more intensity and speed than a practice against teammates.

Coaches talk all the time about how stagnant practice can get day after day against the same teammates and how the competition level and intensity ramp up even when teams do joint practices with other squads. There won't be any joint practices this year either, and with no preseason, it's going to be hard to simulate the intensity and speed.

It will be interesting to see what strategies coaches use to try and get their rookies ready for game action Week 1.

3. Play calling

This will be an interesting training camp for offensive and defensive play callers as well with no preseason or joint practices to work through and study the tape of afterward.

Teams are pretty vanilla in the preseason in terms of their scheme and play calling, but there are still things play callers can glean from going against a different scheme and new personnel. Players learn pretty quickly in training camp a teammate's strengths and weaknesses facing them every day in 1-on-1, 7-on-7 and team drills at practice. In the same light, play callers pick up on tendencies from the guy calling the plays on the opposite side day after day in practice.

The preseason is a good time for play callers to see what plays work and what ones don't, and how different players fit into the mix in a game atmosphere against an unfamiliar opponent.

It's no coincidence the Lions looked to add veteran players this offseason who were familiar with their schemes, knowing that practice time and the preseason could be limited.

4. Sloppy football in September

There's always some level of sloppy football early in the season with the limits on padded practices and practice length. Veterans who don't see a lot of action in the preseason work their way back into extended game action early in the season.

But even veterans like Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, who doesn't usually play much in the preseason, would probably say that preseason game action has its value. It's a different speed and intensity with the lights on and cameras rolling. Even a player with as much experience as Stafford can gain something from going against live action and a defense he hasn't played against for a month straight. He can certainly learn something about new teammates and young players during that time.

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