The third episode of HBO's Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Miami Dolphins aired last night, and, while the show was not the must watch spectacle of last week's crash and burn of wide receiver Chad Johnson, last night's episode still had some great Dolphins moments and stories. The show checked in on the training camp development of John Jerry and Vontae Davis, looked at how the veterans handled the Johnson release, and saw the rookies conduct their talent show.
But, the main story line of the show was clearly the quarterback battle, which concluded on Sunday, with the media being told on Monday. The show featured Matt Moore and Ryan Tannehill throughout, while touching on David Garrard's injury. They also finally introduced Pat Devlin, who will most likely make the roster as the third quarterback this season.
Maybe the best moment in the show was when offensive lineman Richie Incognito asked Ryan Tannehill if he was starting the Carolina Panthers game. When Tannehill said he was, Incognito holds out his fist, tells the rookie to "Pound it," then as he started to walk away, Incognito looked back at Tannehill and added, "Now don't f*** is up."
While the show centered on the quarterbacks, it also had some other moments, including the show opening with the look at the veterans' reactions to the release of Johnson last week. General manager Jeff Ireland watched as Karlos Dansby's statement that the release of Johnson would cause more of a distraction than keeping the veteran wide out would have. He was then talking to head coach Joe Philbin on the practice field when running back Reggie Bush approached the two of them, asking if he, Dansby, and left tackle Jake Long could meet with them at some point.
That meeting then took place in Philbin's office (minus Ireland), with the three veteran players all looking for a way for them to be able to better police themselves. Long added, "The last couple of years, we haven't been good enough as players holding players accountable. We started getting better last year near the end of the year, but we need to establish that." Philbin suggested, and the players agreed, to form a leadership council with the veterans, meeting with the head coach once a week. Everyone agreed to the plan, including having the council be those three guys and Philbin temporarily, at least until the 53 man roster is settled, then finding the right players to be the permanent guys.
On a side note, Long barely fits in a chair.
After the meeting, Bush was highlighted, saying he wants to be a leader on this team and that he has a lot to teach the younger players. His work after practices with the sled and his continuous strive to better himself was filmed, and mentioned by coaches, during this week's episode.
Philbin was not done meeting with players, as veteran free agent Eric Steinbach also met with the coach. Steinbach was upset by his own performance this preseason, realizing he is not the same player he was for eight years in the league, before a back injury kept him out all year last season. Steinbach said he didn't want to mention retirement, but it seems like that's where he might be headed, even when he later in the show said he is getting better, though not up to full speed yet.
Steinbach played for Philbin at Iowa, where Philbin moved him from tight end to tackle and guard.
Meanwhile, guard John Jerry's weight became a story line again this week. The coaches commented that Jerry is the only player still overweight in camp, with the third year player over 30 pounds heavier than his listed playing weight. Offensive coordinator Mike Sherman described Jerry as "going down fast." Offensive line coach Jim Turner was hard on Jerry throughout the show, but for the right reasons. He said, "Some guys just don't get it. You've got to show them. And you've got to lead them to it." Turner is working with Jerry throughout the show, keeping him in to take multiple reps until he was vomiting on the field. But, Turner also stated that Jerry could become something special. "If he buys in," Turner told the HBO cameras about Jerry, "he'll be an All-Pro. If he buys in, he will be one of the best players we have on that offensive line, without question."
Rookie Jonathan Martin was also spotlighted in the show. While fans and coaches alike were frustrated by Martin's play this week in the Carolina game, the right tackle out of Stanford was shown to be developing well under Turner's coaching. Turner pointed out that Martin will probably be the team's starting right tackle opening day, and that they just need to leave him in there during the preseason to gain experience.
The show took a light turn when the rookie talent show made the cut. The show sent the players into a frenzy on Twitter last week, though none of them would leak what had happened. The talent show featured things like Kheeston Randle and Olivier Vernon showing off some "look-alike" pictures, including Philbin as South Park's Mr. Mackey before Tannehill took over to show the players' look-alikes, including Matt Moore as Nacho Libre, John Jerry as a really fat cowboy, and a blue wig wearing Jake Long as Katie Perry.
After the rookie show, Hard Knocks turned back to Philbin, highlighting his perfectionist attention to detail. If a player does not have his shoes tie, Philbin notices. He checks the players' lockers to make sure trash is not in them. He catches players when they are wearing jewelry out to practice (wide receiver Davone Bess). He picks up the pieces of trash off the field. He points out that they should have put dimmers on the big lights in the main auditorium for the training facility. He gets coaches to change the color of the pens, when a coach writes in a pink block on a paper with red ink. In essence, there is no detail that Philbin misses, and the show did a great job of demonstrating that.
Vontae Davis then took center stage of the show. In episode one of the season, Davis was shown as out of shape and not focused on football. The show last night demonstrated his improvement, despite his demotion to second string cornerback in the base defense. The show used Davis to highlight how the Dolphins approach practice, teaching a technique in the morning, then using film to reinforce that teaching, with the evening walk through perfecting the teaching.
Davis appears to be back in the good side with the coaches, with Davis being described as being "more comfortable with himself."
The show then did a montage of the Dolphins getting ready for practice, in the weight room, eating, studying film, using the, by now famous, ropes, getting into ice tubes, getting taped up, running drills on the practice field, going back to the hotel, studying their iPad playbooks, and, finally, going to sleep. All of this after the narrator introduced the montage by saying, "The entire Dolphin team is a work in progress. Far from perfect, but getting better day-by-day."
The show returned to the quarterback competition with Garrard rehabbing his knee. He says his goal is to get back to 100%, saying, "You know, I don't have a crystal ball. But, I'm just going off the two to four weeks the doctors said, and, you know, I hope I can make it back somewhere in that time range." Then we got to watch him leave the team facilities on his crutches.
As Garrard turned off camera, the focus shifted to Tannehill and Moore, each working snaps with the first team. Moore was shown to not be giving up his starting job easily, competing the entire time. Moore admitted he needed to work on his footwork, trying not to get sloppy as he drops back into the pocket.
Meanwhile, Tannehill was seen struggling, trying to get through the middle of training camp, a problem most rookies have. But, he was also seen as critical of himself, trying to get better with every throw and every rep he takes.
That's when Hard Knocks finally brought Devlin into the series. He was shown as a developing player, but one who the coaching staff likes, and as the player who could benefit the most from Garrard's injury. Tight ends coach Dan Campbell commented during a meeting, "He reminds me of Tony Romo, when Romo was just like him." Campbell previously played tight end for the Cowboys from 2003 to 2005, Romo's first three seasons in the league.
Before the decision on a starting quarterback, the show turned to the wide receivers. Offensive coordinator Mike Sherman stood before the receivers in a meeting, challenging them to step up and someone become the main guy for the team. Going into the Carolina game, Sherman commented that all the receivers were bunched up, and a better picture should be had after the game.
In covering the game against the Panthers, the narrator may have said it best, stating, "A single bad hour in a game undoes a whole week of good practice." Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle was clearly unhappy throughout the game, and stated that there would be many spot still to be won after a performance like Friday night.
The touchdown drive by the offense highlighted Tannehill's potential, as well as the play of some of the wide receivers. Sherman called the drive "like giving birth," but the team was able to put together a 15 play drive and get on the scoreboard.
One player whose poop play was highlighted was tight end Michael Egnew, who was also singled out last week. Egnew was again seen dropping passes, as well as not blocking. Coach Campbell was continually on Egnew in the second half of the game, telling him to quit loafing down the field when someone else catches a pass and get in there and block. But, he came back later to tell Egnew, "The ones that can bounce back are the ones who can play, and play solid, in this league. That's what you've got to do. Put it behind you. Put it behind you. I want to see how you respond. If you let that get to you, we're going to know what you're about. But if you finish this game out strong, then we're going to know who you are."
Egnew was then shown throwing a block on a Panthers defender on a passing play not to the tight end. When he got back to the sideline, Campbell was immediately there saying, "That a kid. That's what I want to see all the time. That's good. Now we're talking."
Jerry was also shown to be playing well during the game. With coaches happy with his performance, and intentionally leaving him in the game as long as they could. And, Jerry knew it, and knew why, telling center Mike Pouncey, "I'm going to try to make the most of what I've got. I know they are watching me, so I've got to do good."
The wide receivers took center stage again with Chris Hogan. Hogan became an overnight sensation last week when Reggie Bush called him "7-Eleven" during the second episode of the show. Hogan surprised people again in the game when, besides always being open, he showed he was able to break tackles and keep heading down field. Miami receivers coach Ken O'Keefe commented that Hogan was going to become a "cult hero."
Hogan and Rishard Matthews came out of the game looking like players ready to step up for the team.
The show concluded with the Moore and Tannehill being told the rookie would be the team's starter. Moore was told first, meeting with (assistant) quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor who called Moore the best back up quarterback in the league (although, he seemed to know if before the meeting when they were out on the practice field). Moore then met with Philbin, telling the head coach, "All I can say moving on is, I'm with you 100-percent." Moore was clearly unhappy with the decision, but handled it with class and like a veteran should.
Tannehill then met with Taylor, followed by Philbin, and was told he was the starter. Taylor told Tannehill, "We're counting on you to lead us to some big things this year." Taylor added, "I feel like no one lost this job, but you did enough things to win this job." Philbin added that "everyone is going to be making this a huge deal and try to blow it out of proportion." He continued, "Tannehill's a rookie. You know, they don't have great wide receivers. Why are they putting him out there? Who's going to play the right side. They are going to come up with a million reasons. They aren't bad people, that's just what they are paid to do."
And, obviously, Coach was right, because those are all exactly the stories and comments going around the media today.
The show's final scene was Tannehill leaving the building for the first time as the Miami Dolphins starting quarterback.
And, of course, the show featured plenty of bikini clad women and city scenery from around Miami.
[Author's Note: Thank you to BSerious72 for stepping up with no notice to publish the immediate reactions post last night]
Obviously, I shot this video before the Tannehill announcement. I cut it on Sunday, with the team announcing him on Monday - so that's already a little out of date - but it's a good video with some good other points. Enjoy.