Miami Dolphins wide receiver Chad Johnson clearly, and predictable, became the star of the first episode of HBO's Hard Knocks last night.
Last night, the first episode of HBO's Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Miami Dolphins debuted, giving fans an inside look into the franchise. The show will air again tonight at 11pm Eastern. If you plan on watching that, and do not want to know anything about the show, you should stop reading now (aka Spoiler Alert!).
The show opened with guard Derek Dennis discussing how he had worked out constantly to be ready for camp. He realized how hard it would be for him to make the Dolphins as an undrafted free agent. What he did not realize, and we see as the scenes cut between him checking in for camp, and the coaches having a discussion of who to cut.
Before the cut is actually made, the scene cuts to the opening sequence. We then watch as the locker room is torn apart and remade, taking the last vestiges of the Tony Sparano era out, and turning the building into Joe Philin's vision.
The show returns to the opening dinner of training camp, with all of the players and their wives/significant others. We also get a quick look at the three starting quarterback possibilities in their homes, with their wives and kids, and a wakeboard (David Garrard). After that, it's game on and training camp really begins.
We see the team working out wide receiver Braylon Edwards and guard Eric Steinbach. The team decided to pass on Edwards (who has now signed with the Seattle Seahawks), but signed Steinbach. But, in order to sign Steinbach, someone has to be cut to make space for the veteran. Flashback to the Dennis opening scene.
Philbin and general manager Jeff Ireland decide that Dennis should compete the conditioning test, then they would call him in and released him. And, that's exactly what they do - with even a remark in the locker room after we see Dennis hand in his playbook out in his car that Dennis never even got to put on his pads.
The most akward moment of the show came when Chad Johnson attempted to crash a private coaches meeting. The coaches were grading out how players were doing, and Johnson tried to sit in on the meeting. The coaches, including Philbin, tried to see if Johnson needed anything, and he said his wife had kicked him out until the end of camp, and he had no where to go. Eventually Johnson realized he was not supposed to be in the meeting (he did bring a notebook, so it looks like he really was trying to learn), and got up and left. It was a funny moment, but kind of akward as well.
We also saw the epic battle between Reggie Bush and Johnson in FIFA Soccer on the PlayStation 3. The two have been trash talking about it on Twitter recently, and it made it into the first show.
There was also another semi-akward Johnson moment. During his introductory news conference, Johnson dropped "F-bombs" six or seven times. Watching in his office, Philbin did not enjoy it, commenting that Johnson represents the Dolphins, and needs to be more careful about what he says. The two spoke on the sideline later in camp about the press conference, with Philbin commenting that a well timed use of the word can have great affect, but repeatedly using it every-other-word simply makes people think ,"Clean up your language."
Of course, the storyline that got the most play was the quarterback battle, with the parallel line of Ryan Tannehill's holdout. The drama of the holdout was built up, including a scene where an on the phone Dawn Aponte tells Jeff Ireland that the team is ready to allow Tannehill to go back into the draft, and Tannehill is prepared to do that. Of course, this is posturing on both sides, and even Ireland commented, "Tannehill just wants what's fair. I just want this guy in camp."
Then the scene cuts to Tannehill reporting to camp, shaking hands with Philbin late at night in the film room, and then signing his contract (with a poster of Dan Marino looking over his shoulder). Tannehill immeditaley moves to studying his playbook, and gets in a midnight workout as well.
With Tannehill in the fold, the quarterback competition moves to center stage, and Tannehill is made to look like the second coming of Marino. From reports coming out of camp, Tannehill has looked good the past few days, but Hard Knocks definitely made him look better than a rookie making rookie mistakes.
Meanwhile, we also got to see a little more about the Vonate Davis situation. The coaches comment, both on the field and in meetings, that Davis is immature and not trying hard enough in practice. He's out of shape, and is constantly dragging. One moment in particular rubbed the coaches the wrong way. The team was getting ready to do one-on-one drills, and Davis had to leave practice to go to the bathroom. Philbin commented that at his (Philbin's) age, he doesn't even have to leave a 75-minute practice to go to the bathroom.
The start of the next practice, coaches asked Davis if he had taken care of his bladder.
Davis looks to be going downhill fast in the eyes of the coaching staff. We'll see over the next four weeks if he can turn it around.
The show also gave us a chance to see the players on their day off from camp. The rookies all immediately begin calling home, spending most of the time sleeping. The veterans all head home to help take care of their children and be with their wives.
The final storyline that could be a feel-good story of camp is Les Brown. Brown is the tight end who gave up football five years ago to pursue basketball, then had a stellar workout with BYU this year at the school's Pro Day, leading to him signing an undrafted free agent contract with the Dolphins. He is trying to make the team, and is a non-stop type of guy. The tight ends coach comments that, if Brown says he cannot guy, then he really cannot go. Brown was seen on the sideline after (apparently) spraining an ankle. He got the ankle wrapped and limped/ran right back onto the field to get back into the action.
The coaches comment that he looks good in pass catching, but he is a liability in both pass protection and run blocking. Brown realizes he has to get better if he wants to make the team.
Of course, the show feature plenty of views of the scenery around Miami, and as many shots of cheerleaders as they could seemingly fit into the show.
The show closes with Philbin crashing the quarterbacks film study, sliding up to the table with Garrard, Matt Moore (who is seen in the show, and intereviewed, but definitely did not have the same roles as Garrard or Tannehill), and Tannehill, to tell them about the depth chart that was released on Monday. Interestingly, Pat Devlin, who Philbin does mention as the fourth string quarterback, is not on screen. Philbin tells them that the first depth chart, which is an NFL requirement since the team has a game this Friday, will have Garrard at one, Moore at two, Tannehill three, and Devlin four. But, he tells them that it's not indicative of anything other than their names on the paper right now.
The competition isn't over.
Now, let's get to next week's show.