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18-08-26 Hard Knocks Crew

Image Credit: ESPN.com

Episode three of Hard Knocks had some highs on the non-football front but was also a demonstration of some of the limitations of the format. When it is good, the programme gives us an insight into the working of an NFL team but it has now been going long enough that you can spot some of the plotting beats and we’re beginning to get to the point where the sword of Damocles hanging over the players further down the roster begins to interfere with the enjoyment of the show. Fourth string quarterback BROgan Roback is a camp arm and doesn’t get into the game against the Bills and we watch in real time as Nate Orchard loses contain twice on the pass rush and the effect this could have on his family. Even last week’s fringe breakout player Devon Cajuste features with his long catch (accompanied by fan cheers of Juice) and the later pass inference that Todd Haley was as unsure about but we’ll look at it on film.

The episode starts with a training camp ‘fight’, which is just one of those things we know happens at training camp and the interesting thing for me was that it was linebacker Christian Kirksey who was peacemaker talking to Jarvis Landry about how he can’t react or break a hand and that he’ll talk to corner Terrane Mitchell. It was pretty amusing to see the, ‘gang of orange’ quarterbacks gathered round Landry and offering to handle the situation for him.

However, for the football nerd it can be frustrating watching obviously sanitised of football content front office and coaching footage. I understand that they can’t give away a competitive advantage but it was painfully obvious that Hue Jackson and Dez Bryant were aware of being on camera in their sit down meeting. I’m was surprised that John Dorsey didn’t know that the player he was bringing in that day was the answer to the pop quiz question his intern had set. We also got treated to offensive line coach Bob Wylie complaining about stretching and comparing 1940s calisthenics to modern training techniques, which is not the kind of attitude I’d want in my coaches but the glimpse into the offensive line drill that had the linemen using a low structure that was clearly helping the linemen keep their pad level down from the snap was genuinely interesting. I was less interested in the random zoology break down of nature’s offensive linemen that was part of the same segment but between Hard Knocks and All Or Nothing it appears that for all the money spent in the NFL, they have the same problems with quality of presentations as sometimes beset the corporate world.

The things that would worry me more seriously as a Browns fan is that I’m not sure how sustainable across a long season Gregg Williams’ fire and brimstone routine is and frankly, I’d like a bit more instruction on what he wants as well as demonstrations of displeasure. We perhaps should be careful of judging this as we don’t know what has been left on the cutting room floor of NFL films, but the fact that his players were touching the quarterback in training and Carl Nassib (he off the impossible financial returns) was openly mocking the offensive coordinator does make you wonder a little about the discipline.

The good news is that Thursday night’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles continued to show that the Browns could well be better this year as they ran out 5-0 winners. In particular, the defence caused the Eagles problems with the pass rush all night and Myles Garrett looked every inch the first round pass rusher as he got a pair of sacks including one for a safety and caused disruption in the backfield. The offence did enough to win the game but the fourth and goal failure that led to the aforementioned safety was a worry as was Tyrod Taylor having to leave the game with a hand injury, but he was able to come back in later in the game. The quietly effective part of the offensive over the last two games in terms of Hard Knocks coverage to how they look in actual games are the running back duo of Carlos Hyde and rookie Nick Chubb who have been moving the ball effectively and helping balance the team. You get the feeling that tight end David Njoku could cause a lot of teams problems with his athleticism and receiver Rashard Higgins had another catch that caught the eye. The swirl at receiver will be one to watch next week now that Josh Gordon has been cleared to practise and play but it appears Dez Bryant was offended by the contract he was offered, but Dez may need to adjust his expectations if he wants to get back on the field as there does not seem to be a lot of other suitors out there at the moment.

As the season nears the cuts are coming and having had the dress rehearsal game next week’s will be all about the battle to make the roster. That’s when the unmanufactured drama will really take hold.