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Hard Knocks Episode Three: Dress Rehearsal

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Los Angeles Rams Training Camp Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

It’s almost like this episode of HBO’s Hard Knocks was directed with Iowa football fans in mind.

We open on LA Chargers receivers coach Phil McGeoghan lambasting his players for not... blocking.

And with that, the episode is off. We see footballs getting scrubbed with Barbasol (apparently to soften the leather), surfaces disinfected and multi millionaires getting their temperature checked early and often.

After this week’s opening credits, we circle back to McGeoghan’s opening tirade, as Chargers receiver Keenan Allen becomes the early focus. This time we see head coach Anthony Lynn lambasting third-year receiver Jalen Guyton for not... blocking.

We then get to Lynn watching tape of the practice, muttering expletive after expletive, wishing to himself that every receiver was Allen—feed Allen, Lynn says. Because he catches everything. And because he blocks.

You only need to do one of those as a receiver to get a scholarship to Iowa.

ANYWAY, as is often the case with Hard Knocks, the show typically leans heavily on a rookie—usually a UDFA or late-round pick—and beats that feel-good horse dead. It’s been setting the stage for Clay Johnston the past two weeks, and now we know why.

Johnston’s dad, Kent, was a strength coach for the Green Bay Packers for seven years. He was Brett Favre’s best man. And that’s the kind of incestuous storyline the NFL loves to inject into our veins. It’s tough to deny it makes for watchable TV. We can debate if 6-1, 235 lbs makes for a watchable NFL linebacker, though.

Johnston’s storyline peaks when he gets a surprise visitor on a Zoom call with his dad. Papa Favre, as the younger Johnston calls him, drops by virtually.

HBO

Johnston remarks that Favre, unironically wearing a Livestrong t-shirt, looks like a million bucks. Favre says he feels like five, and that feels like a much safer bid on this episode of The Price is Right.

Something that’s been glossed over the first couple episodes is the QB situation for the Chargers. Phillip Rivers was in that seat for the past century, and I didn’t even know Tyrod Taylor was picked up by the Bolts until last week.

Taylor, a nine-year veteran, seems to have the respect of the locker room. Every time cameras mention a certain meeting or workout or exercise is voluntary, Taylor’s been there leading the way. Not satisfied with the way the offense ran a new play in practice, he has the team in a meeting to break down the film. Here we get our only glimpse of former Hawks on the week, as Bryan Bulaga helps with the play. It’s something they ran all the time in Green Bay.

HBO

The biggest winner of the episode is defensive end Melvin Ingram. A three-time Pro Bowler, Ingram wasn’t holding out of practices for the Chargers... but was holding in, according Lynn. He’s everywhere, hyping up teammates, helping out rookies and joking with the staff, but in sweats. He wants to be there, but he wants to get paid, too.

The starting end opposite Ingram, Joey Bosa, just inked a $135 million contract. Ingram wanted the last year of his deal restructured, and eventually it was settled. The Charger lifer will get $14 million guaranteed in 2020 before re-signing or going elsewhere in 2021.

We get a glimpse of Ingram’s rapping prowess while he chums up with teammates. We get to go to a recording session where he actually spins a track.

Everything across town builds up towards a full-contact (minus the QB) practice inside the brand new SoFi Stadium for the Rams. Earlier Tuesday it was announced the stadium didn’t intend to allow fans to start the season, but there aren’t any fans at practices anyway.

In an episode that really lacked the teeth the previous two had, we’re left with an anti-climactic climax of the contact practice. Johnston makes a poor case for himself to stick with the team, while Aaron Donald just absolutely eats people. We don’t learn anything new, but it’s still worth the watch. Next week I suggest more Hawkeyes, though.

Musings

  • There wasn’t a single positive COVID test between the two teams this week, something I was really glad to learn after a couple cases popped up the first two weeks.
  • There’s an undrafted rookie safety named JuJu Hughes for the Rams. He plays with a toothpick in his mouth.
  • The funniest thing I saw on TV this week: a camera catches Rams offensive lineman Brian Allen (it could’ve been David Edwards but I think it was Allen) poking himself in the eye with a straw. He quickly and furtively scans the room to see if anyone saw him. He decides no one did, and breathes a sigh of relief. He then realizes the cameraman got it all, and probably wondered how much it would cost for his silence.