Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Hard Knocks: Episode 4 Thoughts & Observations

As the end of the preseason and the regular season near, we're a week away from the finale of HBO's Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Miami Dolphins. After a fairly uneventful third episode following the second episode's arrest and release of Chad Johnson, yesterday's fourth episode returned to a higher level of intrigue and emotion with the trading of Vontae Davis and the first wave of cuts, which took place Saturday.

Here are my in-depth thoughts and observations about last night's episode...

  •  We already knew veteran guard Eric Steinbach retired before last night's episode, but we got an even clearer picture of his thought process from the behind-the-scenes look. It was obvious he wasn't happy with his performance on the field and it seems his body just couldn't take it, as he indicated it took nearly half of practice every day to get warm. Steinbach seemed genuinely appreciative for the opportunity and disappointed his career was over, but he was also content knowing he gave it one final shot.
  • One of the big surprises of the episode was learning the Daniel Thomas has been in the doghouse quite a bit lately. Head coach Joe Philbin had running backs coach Jeff Nixon send Thomas to Philbin's office after he was 15 minutes late to a lifting session. Once in the meeting, Philbin also revealed that Thomas was fined the previous week for showing up late to the team plane and not wearing appropriate attire. This is the first time we've ever seen Thomas in quite such a negative light and hopefully he can get his act together and mature. I liked what I saw of him on the field in the team's last game and he has the talent to be a big part of the running game, but he needs to get on the staff's good side to get an opportunity.
  • Richie Incognito and Jarrell Root are both absolutely hysterical. Incognito "hacking" into Michael Egnew's iPad and messing with his Facebook was a riot. It's impossible not to like Incognito after seeing him behind the scenes.
  • That being said about Root, he seemed to be on the coaching staff's bad side during practice and even had defensive line Kacy Rodgers accuse him of "eyballing him" after receiving criticism. Joe Philbin had a talk with Root after about the way he responds to the coaches and obviously any time of insubordination or attitude isn't going to sit well, especially for an undrafted rookie.
  • It was nice getting to know undrafted defensive tackle Chas Alecxih through Hard Knocks. He's got a great personality and seems like a very good guy, while his story about being lost at sea earlier this year was incredible. Unfortunately, the NFL game might be too big for him and I'm not sure he's even a realistic practice sqaud candidate at this point, despite what he was told when he was waived.
  • Holy crap, Matt Moore quizzing Ryan Tannehill on the NFL's divisions and Tannehill failing miserably was absolutely hystercial. Tannehill admitted he's never been much of a pro fan and just didn't know, suggesting things like the Chiefs being in the NFC East. I suppose it doesn't matter if he knows what team is in a division as long as he beats them!
  • Nice to see a little Jeff Ireland backstory in this one, probably trying to make him look a little more human. I still don't get the impression he's a real nice guy, however. But I don't care if he's nice as long as he builds the team well.
  • The coverage by NFL Films of the Dolphins-Falcons game was odd, because they really twisted things to make it look like the Dolphins offense was rolling before the drops kicked in and that the defense played tight as well. In reality, it was a horrible mess from beginning to end.
  • The different players getting cut was difficult to witness. Some, like cornerback Marcus Brown and running back Jerome Messam, got angry and defensive, speaking about not getting the opportunities. (Ireland flat-out told Messsam, "well that's why we practice." Ouch.) Chas Alecxih took it well and was grateful for the opportunity and experience. Tight end Les Brown was by the far the hardest to watch, as he got emotional saying goodbye to teammates and tight ends coach Dan Campbell. Brown was clearly a well-liked guy in the facility and everyone was rooting for him, but his play just isn't there. He'll probably turn out elsewhere, but I'm not sure he'll ever be able to handle the physicality of the NFL game.
  • By far the most interesting aspect of the episode was the Vontae Davis trade. We learned the talks originated with a text to Ireland from Colts' GM Ryan Grigson and that the original offer was a fifth-round pick and a sixth-round pick. Ireland pushed the deal up to a third-rounder and eventually to a second-rounder. He asked for a second and a sixth but settled for a second and a conditional sixth. There was no mention about any other players discussed, although reports indicate that happened as well. I'll give Ireland credit for playing hardball in these negotiations and not settling for anything less than he was comfortable with, as he told Grigson that he was the one giving up the contributing player now and needed sufficient picks in return.
  • It's clear Ireland was willing to trade Davis from the beginning, and Joe Philbin didn't seen surprised or against the move. Philbin at one point said that he liked Davis but wondered if he'd ever get to where they wanted him to be. Defensive backs coach Lou Anarumo was also heavily critical of the penalty Davis committed on his pick-six against Atlanta, calling it an "unbelievable lack of awareness."
  • Ireland telling Davis he was traded predictably closed the episode, and it made for great television. Davis looked shocked by the news, immediately wanting to call his grandma and later asking Ireland what he was traded for. ("A couple picks" Ireland said.) And with that, the former first-round pick was no longer a Miami Dolphin.