Would it be too predictable to say that last night's Hard Knocks episode was awesome? Probably. Any time a fan gains insight on a team that he/she invests so much into, it's great. From the unfiltered interaction with the team's personalities, (not so) closed door speeches, and the overall camaraderie, there's a human connection being made. It's not the mundane interviews by the media, or the impersonal twitter updates regarding roster changes. Fans become even greater fans because they're enjoying the people that wear the uniform.
Let's take a few looks at the storylines in the second episode featuring Cincinnati.
+ THE BACKUP QUARTERBACK COMPETITION
Early on the show offered the worst that Josh Johnson and John Skelton had to offer during training camp. Johnson was throwing terrible passes with Marvin Lewis even remarking that "his accuracy is horrible." Skelton, who has never played in a west coast system, admitted that he's struggling to pick up the terminology. At one point we're watching Skelton call a play in the huddle while stuttering and stammering some of the calls.
Obviously the storyline was to play down both players for their performances against Atlanta -- which were far more impressive than we expected.
+ BACKUP FULL BACK COMPETITION
If everything that you know about the Bengals is coming from Hard Knocks, then how in the world could Orson Charles be listed higher than John Conner on the team's depth chart? Though we've never been led to believe that Charles has struggled THAT much, Hue Jackson offered a reality check with the second-year H-Back in a private meeting that began with, "you don't know how to play football." In the meantime, you saw Conner take out Margus Hunt (which took place during the first weekend of camp back in July). We could literally watch an entire episode of Conner blocking people.
+ THE ATLANTA TRIP
Before the initial practice against the Falcons, the team found a spot in some random field close by that was dominated by ant hills and dirt, which offered dangerous footing.
+ MARGUS HUNT
I'll be honest. I'm not sure what to think of Hunt. Completely unassuming, Hunt just absorbs the bantering. "Do I look like a woman," Hunt says to Terence Stephens when the defensive tackle wondered what Estonian women looked like. "I just imagine all the women look like you," Stephens says.
Mike Brown is worried that he doesn't have any friends, but it's clear that Hunt is social enough to deal with the ribbing from teammates. Geno Atkins, "I'll bet Rocky III is your favorite movie." Wrong, Geno. Ivan Drago was Rocky IV, which Hunt astutely reminded Geno. It even comes from the coaches. A good moment was Mike Zimmer "pretending" to ask Hunt a series of questions, stalling for time so that his girlfriend could surprise him at Paul Brown Stadium.
In all honesty, Zimmer was classic. During a break in practice, Zimmer asked Hunt for an Estonian translation app, "because clearly you don't know English." Speaking of which, how awesome was Zimmer's fiery speech after Atlanta's touchdown?
A couple of additional notes.
- Jon Gruden told a story about Jay during one summer. Jon, who was a quarterback in Dayton, talked about working out all summer, "throwing, running, working out." Jay just "sat on the couch." When the challenge was thrown down, the lazy younger brother beat Jon during a 1.3-mile race around their parents home.
- Great quote by Jay Gruden, telling his quarterback to enunciate the plays in the huddle: "Make every play sound like it's the greatest play in your life, because it is. They're all great."
- Another good quote while the team was battling the field saturated with ant hills: "I just got bit by something." Gruden looks to a player, "Want to suck the venom out?"
- Terence Newman talking out loud (without anyone in sight) thinking about going to the pool, "doing the backstroke with Hally Berry feeding you grapes."
- Terence Stephens had a good amount of play, especially when he was singing in front of the team. At one point he received an ovation. Earlier he sang a Boyz to Men song with Marvin Jones (who shouldn't ever sing).
- I don't know what to think about Taylor Mays. Dude can seriously smack an unexpected receiver six feet into the ground. But he's weird. It was a little funny watching Taylor Mays talk about his girlfriend while Rey Maualuga, his roommate at the Atlanta hotel, is completely ignoring him.
- How many linebackers on this team have dreads?
- A moment was spent with Tyler Eifert doing the dishes at the Whitworths' home. Eifert is rooming with in the extra bedroom while his condo is being prepared.
- I love Vontaze Burfict's attitude. But we can see where he can be kind of a dick.