Hard Knocks was back this week, and we still don’t have full preseason games or full contact scrimmages. But hey, at least the quarterbacks can actually throw to the receivers now, right? That’s something. If they have competitive wind sprints next week I might shit my pants from the pure excitement.
With no football action to anchor the hijinks and repetitive drudgery this year Hard Knocks is like a series of human interest stories adrift on the ocean, unmoored from the ship that was meant to hold them. I want to care about this third-string undrafted wide receiver, but do I dare get invested when I know I won’t be able to watch him muff a punt in a fourth quarter preseason game against Tampa Bay?? I thirst for those moments when Cinderella story meets cruel reality.
Okay, enough jibber jabber, let’s get to the depth chart.
STARTER: Anthony Linn
SECOND: Sean McVay
McVay came out hot with this shirt off in episode one, but getting an eyeful of both yoked coaches in episode two I think I have to give Linn the slight edge in swolness. I’m just going to say it, I think McVay has skipped a few leg days. PC Principal lookin’ ass.
Aspirational Real Estate
STARTER: Jared Goff’s house
For just about everyone I know in Los Angeles, the worst part of living there other than the traffic is high rent and the prospect of basically never being able to afford a house. Meanwhile, Jared Goff has a pitch and putt in his yard:
Being an NFL quarterback: Nice work if you can get it.
Hey, Jared Goff’s brother, your hip turn is a little weak. “Squash the bug” with that back foot, man.
SECOND: Jalen Ramsey’s potential house.
This week treated us to a nice little package of shutdown corner Jalen Ramsey getting wooed by a real estate agent. Did you know that if you’re an NFL star, they decorate an open house with pictures of you and your family? Wild stuff. Also… is that actually a good thing? Who’s your agent, single white female?
Anyway, the house looked pretty good, though this felt like dubious quote attribution:
“Amenities include saltwater infinity pool, his and hers clawfoot tubs, subzero appliances, and pre-installed inspirational word art.”
Definitive Food Review
I miss the football action but I’m happy whenever Hard Knocks fills the hole with clips of large men talking about their favorite foods. I could watch that all day.
STARTER: “That branzino be fine though.” — Melvin Ingram III, on his favorite fish.
SECOND: “Taco Bell got wings now. I bet them joints smack.” — Jalen Ramsey
THIRD: “Fudge, man!” — Clay Johnston, seventh-round drafted rookie Rams linebacker
To be fair, I think that the third one may not have been an actual food review, it’s just the way Clay Johnston swears. I went to Wikipedia to find out whether Clay Johnston was Mormon and it didn’t say, but I did discover that he has three brothers named Kody, Kole, and Cade. He’s definitely Mormon, whether or not he knows it. (Sidenote: Do you think his parents dropped the K naming convention after two to keep from looking racist?)
Inspirational Quote From Strength Coach John Lott
Rookie running back Darius Bradwell showed up to Chargers camp weighing 253, up from his college playing weight of 235. For most people, it’s hard to say what difference 18 pounds will make on a person’s play without seeing that person actually play, but football coaches aren’t most people. They can tell just by looking at you whether you have “the right body.” So Darius Bradwell got sent down to Chargers strength coach John Lott (A+ strength coach name, by the way) for a pep talk.
STARTER: “This ain’t no pie-eatin’ contest!”
(This lack of preseason football is really taking its toll on Hard Knocks‘ watchability, which raises the question: what if it was a pie-eating contest?)
SECOND: “Don’t be eatin’ no stinkin’ tacos at midnight!”
(good thing the Chargers moved out of San Diego, eating tacos at midnight is the official civic pastime).
THIRD: “Tip your waiters!”
I actually don’t even know what that third one meant, I think John Lott’s catchphrase dispenser just got stuck. That happens with coaches some times — you have to take out their playbook and blow on it and put it back in.
First World Problem
STARTER: “I have to live in a hotel.”
Look, I’m not saying playing football for a living is an easy life, or that non-superstars don’t make all kinds of sacrifices and suffer hardships, but Hard Knocks dedicated an entire package to rookies complaining about living in a hotel. Really? You’re upset about living in a hotel? You come home to a made bed every day and when you get done using a towel you can throw it on the floor. Living in a hotel rules.
SECOND: “I got COVID from my nanny.”
As the resident grey beard, I’ll definitely be rooting for Andrew “The Juggernaut” Whitworth (knowing how f*cked my back is from playing rugby a few times a week until my mid-20s I truly can’t imagine being 100 pounds heavier and playing professional football into my late 30s), but I admit I almost choked on my drink when he revealed that his family got COVID from their nanny. And here I thought having to be simultaneous childcare providers, telecommuters, and homeschool teachers was a burden. But I guess the flipside is that you could always get COVID from your nanny. A grass-is-always-greener kind of sitch, I guess.
This one is damn near a pick ’em. It’s kind of a “choose your fighter” situation for the players on the bubble. Do you prefer the fat guy, the white guy, the surfer, or the goofball?
STARTER: Darius Bradwell, Chargers Rookie Running Back (the fat guy)
I just love a fat running back, man. Can’t get enough of ’em. Don’t you dare lose that weight, Bradwell. Stay swoll.
SECOND: Justin Herbert, Chargers Rookie Quarterback (the surfer)
To be fair, Herbert is a first-round pick, and thus not especially an underdog, not to mention an Oregonian, and thus probably more of a pretty boy than a surfer. Whatever, I’m sticking with my initial stereotypes. This week gave us both a package of Herbert trying to learn a snap-count and a loving montage dedicated to his glorious spirals (“I love his balls,” as one awed teammate put it last week). I don’t know whether I’m rooting for him or just rooting for the inevitable moment when those glorious spirals turn into glorious interceptions the first time Tyrod Taylor gets benched.
THIRD: Dont’e Deayon, journeyman cornerback, Rams (the goofball)
Hard Knocks is trying real hard to make Dont’e Deayon the comic relief this season. I don’t know that it’s working but I appreciate the effort.
FOURTH: Clay Johnston, seventh-round rookie Rams linebacker (the white guy)
Essentially the white equivalent of Dont’e Deayon. The very white equivalent. Fudge, man!
The James Harrison Memorial Award For Terrifying Swollness
STARTER: Still Aaron Donald
I didn’t appreciate the way Aaron Donald was all coy about taking his shirt off for the cameras this week. Let us objectify you in peace, you strong, strong man.
‘Hard Knocks’ airs every Tuesday on HBO. Vince Mancini is on Twitter. You can access his archive of reviews here.