While the Hall of Fame game can be an important milestone to the start of an NFL season, the start of Hard Knocks may be even bigger to some. For 11 years HBO has gone behind the scenes at NFL training camp, and if the first episode is any indication, this season could be one the shows strongest. The overnight ratings indicate as much:
Tons of talking points in Tuesday’s premiere episode, so let’s take a look at some of the takeaways from Houston:
Bill O’Brien Is Going to be a Fan Favorite
From the opening scene, Bill O’Brien made has stamp on Hard Knocks. With barrels of confidence and no time for nonsense, O’Brien cursed and stomped his way through the season premiere. A total of 14 F-bombs were counted, a number high even for HBO standards.
Some of the show’s strongest moments are when O’Brien is speaking openly about his roster. His praise of injured linebacker Reshard Cliette, and his open criticism while watching film with quarterbacks are the type of moments that make Hard Knocks special. One of Houston’s biggest stories of camp wasn’t extensively covered by HBO cameras, but rather summarized by one man’s face.
O’Brien has a softer family side, one that hopefully will be portrayed in future episodes. For now, enjoy the full extent of B.O.B berating would-be Texans rookies for not knowing the names of their teammates.
JJ Watt is Not Human
The biggest star on the Texans heading into the show, Watt showcased his work ethic and dedication during the season premiere. Many viewers found Watt’s performance somewhat canned, as Watt proceeds to be universally loved by fans. He showed America that he knows the words to Mike Shinoda songs and is better than his mom at cornhole. Fascinating. Good thing the Titans didn’t draft a 1,000 pound tire as their new quarterback.
What was more interesting was how Watt behaves and interacts with others while at the Texans facility. From criticizing assistant coaches and grounds crews, to asking Vince Wilfork to run somebody over. Vince Wilfork has been to five Super Bowls. What does he need to prove to Watt?
Watt’s best line: yelling “holding” on a hopeless Redskins tackle on his way to a sack, the way LeBron would call “and one” on his way to an easy layup.
Hopkins is the Texans Make-or-Break Player
Beyond Hard Knocks, the development of Texans receivers without Andre Johnson this season is crucial to their success. After the performance by DeAndre Hopkins in the first episode, Texan fans may be able to breathe a little easier. Hopkins looked stellar in practices, making leaping catches and running crisp routes.
The downside on Hopkins may be his downfall. From the looks of the first episode, Hopkins can be prone to provocation from mouthy defensive backs. He’s confident, but his willingness to get scrappy is something that could eventually cost the Texans a game. That being said, Hopkins didn’t let words from DeAngelo Hall rattle him too much.
Here’s what happened (NSFW language):
The two were still jawing on Twitter after the episode:
We Don’t Follow Kevin Johnson For the Skills
Hard Knocks always pays attention to the rookies, from first-round picks to undrafted free agents. There were a bunch covered last night, but the majority of focus went to 16th overall pick Kevin Johnson. Well, the cameras were with Johnson. The focus of the viewer went to Kevin’s sister Hillary, who is a cheerleader for the Baltimore Ravens. Johnson’s family seemingly follows Kevin everywhere he goes, so hopefully we’ll see more of Hillary in future episodes.
As for Kevin, he looked good on the field and in the episode earned praise from Texans veterans. Did anyone else think it was weird that when J.J. Watt was praising him, Watt was never making eye contact?
Other notes from Tuesday:
America will be falling in love with Vince Wilfork this August. #BigVince was trending on Twitter during the episode, which featured Wilfork meeting elephants and draining step-back jumpers over children. Expect more from Vince and his wife Bianca in future episodes.
When Tom Savage is joking about being traded to Washington, and someone off-camera yelled, “Dammit, Tom!”. Hopefully that’s a recurring joke used in the Texans locker room, and Savage can get his own sitcom sometime soon.
The overall staleness from the scene with Bob Macnair and Daniel Snyder schmoozing it up in Virginia. Everything about the governor’s mansion was awkward. Less speeches, more tire flipping, please.