Review of HBO’s 2016 Hard Knocks

Written by :
Published on : September 7, 2016

 

 

The Los Angeles Rams are the subject of this season of HBO’s Hard Knocks. A superiorly produced documentary series partnered with NFL Films that shows an exclusive behind the scenes look at training camp. All the highs and lows. It’s excellent and helps get me get pumped for the new NFL year. The Rams were a solid choice to focus on because this is their first season back to L.A. after relocating from St Louis. A team coming back to it’s old town is just a great story. Just like Alex said.

 

After watching all five episodes, there are some clear trends that shine through. Let’s get the most obvious thing out of the way now. There’s tons of swearing. Like fucking tons. This is why Hard Knocks is on HBO, they are the only ones that can air what these guys actually say. And it’s a lot of not-safe-for-work shit but that’s how pro football is. It can be a little shocking, even for me, who curses like a mother fucking sailor. So be warned. Earmuffs.

 

 

After the crazy swearing, the next standout is that Jeff Fisher and his staff are total dicks. But especially Jeff. Every time he talks I just hate him more. He speaks down to everyone and acts like such hot shit. I hate his hair cut but begrudgingly respect his mustache. For a coach with a career record of 170-156-1 who hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2008, he sure walks around training camp with some Hall of Fame swagger. Fake it till you make it, I guess. To be fair, he seems to be genuine when he cuts players from the team but everything else still applies.

 

In episode three, Mike Singletary makes a visit. He is awesome. Super intense but completely purposeful. You can tell why he was a great player. His tenacity is clear as day. That’s how you are supposed to coach.

 

Rookie QB and first overall pick in the 2016 draft, Jared Goff, looks to have a solid arm but the Cal product is kind of a dummy. In one episode, it is revealed that Goff doesn’t know what direction the sun rises and sets. That’s insane. It’s not like the sun is some regional thing. Goff is currently second in the depth chart behind Case Keenum. Maybe the rook will take over at some point but it will be because of his play making, not his brains.

 

Speaking of smarts. Defensive End, Will Hayes, doesn’t believe dinosaurs existed. Even when confronted with fossils and dinosaur bones. It all goes down in episode four when Hayes visits super fun looking museum called Dino Quest.

 

 

Todd Gurley likes to talk. The running back phenom is entering his sophomore season and is looking to build off his breakout performance last year. I knew the dude can ball but man, does he like to talk trash. It’s awesome. His mouth has a motor just like his legs. Gurley doesn’t even need to be on the field. He is easily the most exciting character the franchise has. As both a player and a personality.

 

Other great highlights include the big brawl in practice that HBO captures in beautiful slow-mo. Some of guys drive a golf cart to the In-N-Out drive thru. The spelling bee. And the heart break of the last round of cuts in episode five.

 

Hard Knocks kicked butt like it always does. It did its job. It got me all amped for the start of real NFL games. As a team, Los Angeles, possess some nice pieces. Beyond Gurley, they have offensive weapons in Tavon Austin and Kenny Britt, plus the defense is loaded with studs like Aaron Donald, Robert Quinn and Alec Ogletree. The NFC West is a pretty tough division so I don’t expect the Rams to surpass either Seattle or Arizona but who knows. HBO makes me think anything is possible.

 

Sorry St. Louis.

 

 


Preseason Questions for all 32 NFL Teams

Written by :
Published on : August 17, 2016

 

 

The sports gods have answered our prayers and brought NFL football back to us mortals. Huzzah! It’s only preseason action but it’s better than nothing. These early practice games are great because they give us a chance to see the team for the first time. Naturally, many questions will bubble to the surface about each squad. Will this rookie make an impact? Will this player stay healthy? Who will win the starting the job? There is tons of buzz out there but these are the big questions facing each NFL team. Find your favorite franchise below and see what they are dealing with.

 

AFC North

Browns – Can RGIII stay on the field for 16 games and be the QB Cleveland needs to move forward?

Steelers – Can this team stay healthy and out of jail?

Ravens – Will the defense improve enough to make them competitive again?

Bengals – Can Andy Dalton be the guy who takes them deep into postseason? Or just win one single  playoff game?

 

 

AFC East

Patriots – Can New England survive Tom Brady’s four game suspension under Jimmy Garoppolo and still win the division?

Dolphins – Will this squad ever play up to their potential?

Bills – How will Tyrod Taylor fare under center in his second year?

Jets – With Fitz back at QB, can the Jets score enough points to win games?

 

AFC South

Colts – Which Andrew Luck will we see? 2014 or 2015?

Jaguars – Is this the season everyone wakes up and believes in the Jags passing attack?

Titans – Tons of new pieces, how will they all work together?

Texans – Is Brock Oswieler really the guy?

 

brock osweiler

 

AFC West

Broncos – Will Mark Sanchez butt-fumble in Denver?

Chiefs – How long will Jamaal Charles last?

Chargers – Can anyone on the team stay off Injured Reserve?

Raiders – Can the Raiders finally get out of their own way?

 

NFC North

Lions – Can the o-line hold up so Stafford finally has some time?

Packers – Is Eddie Lacy too fat?

Bears – Why is Jay Cutler still there?

Vikings – Can AP carry them to another division title?

 

 

NFC East

Cowboys – Who will get hurt first: Tony Romo or Dez Bryant?

Giants – Is Eli Manning still good?

Eagles – What is the identity of this team? Seriously. And don’t say Sam Bradford.

Skins – Can Kirk Cousins keep up his play from the end of last year?

 

NFC South

Saints – Does Drew Brees have any tricks left up his sleeve?

Panthers – How does Cam respond to losing the Super Bowl? Is there any hangover?

Falcons – Can the defense figure out how to stop anyone?

Buccaneers – Bucs took a kicker in the 2nd round of the draft, how many misses before fans freak out?

 

 

NFC West

Cardinals – Is David Johnston really all that? And a bag of chips?

Niners – How much of a mess will the offense be under Chip Kelly?

Seahawks – Is this the year they start throwing Jimmy Graham the ball?

Rams – Can Todd Gurley keep up his dominance? Or will opposing defenses finally figure out how to stop him?

 

Real-deal NFL games are only a few weeks away. So close, I can almost taste it. The regular season starts Thursday, September 8th. Until then, let’s enjoy the rest of the preseason and hope no one gets badly injured. Leave any questions you may have in the comments.

 

Are you ready for some football?

 

 


Roger Pretzel’s Cloudy Crystal Ball: NFC West Predictions

Written by :
Published on : August 12, 2015

 

In the NFC West we’ve got a dominant flock of seagulls, a 49ers fan base that may not have as much to worry about as they’ve been told, a lost herd of Rams looking for a shepherd, and a pumped-up Arizona staring down a tough road to repeating last season’s success.

Shut up! Shut up! The ball… She speaks to me…

San Francisco 49ers:

 photo fortyniners_zpspuwzch4o.jpg

 

It’s completely impossible to avoid the fact that San Francisco has been dealt many painful blows this offseason. They lost one of the league’s most interesting and visible coaches (regardless of whether or not his departure was inevitable). With the loss of so many players, either preventable or through unforeseen circumstances, the collective blood pressure of the ‘Niners’ faithful is rising. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine in the wake of this roster depleting shit-storm that San-Fran used to contend for the Super Bowl. To me, that team looked invincible.

Despite all that, I think there’s a chance for this organization to bounce back pretty quickly. Ex-Ravens Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin provide two great complimentary threats with a short and long pass combo. The lion’s share of the pressure is going to rest on the poorly-tattooed shoulders of Colin Kaepernick. Personally, I’m not wild about Kap, but he’s shown fits of brilliance in the past. If Kaepernick can screw his head on right, show some leadership and play at his best, you’re looking at a team destined to play above .500. Finally, I’d take Frank Gore over Reggie Bush any day, but when the former Heisman winner was healthy two seasons ago with the Lions, he provided a nice threat that specialized in bouncing to the outside.

 

The crystal ball says:

 

It’s still going to be a tough year for the 49ers, but it won’t be the complete disaster or lost year that many people are expecting. They’re going to win some big games, turn heads, and get people talking, but ultimately Kaepernick will remain streaky, making any sort of playoff run a serious long shot.

 

St. Louis Rams:

 photo stlouisrams_zps0vxu9vxf.jpg

 

The winds of change are blowing ominously in St. Louis and I think they’re blowing towards Los Angeles. By the end of the decade I won’t be surprised if this team has moved on to another part of the country. Regardless of the rumors, this is a real do or die for Jeff Fisher. He started as strong as you can while still turning in a sub .500 season, but with each successive year it’s gotten a little worse, and 2014 was close to disastrous.

There’ve been a lot of empty promises in the run game and QB department, and like Fisher, WR Tavon Austin is also experiencing a slump. James Laurinaitis deserves better than this. He’s a great captain and is the staunch backbone of a solid defense that is constantly betrayed by a legendarily bad offense. Chip Kelly’s no dummy, so at least the Foles/Bradford trade was beneficial to both parties, though I err on the side of thinking the Rams got the better deal, at least in the short term. That’s fine. Time is something they don’t have.

 

The crystal ball says:

 

For better or worse Fisher’s reign ends this season with another sub .500 campaign. Nick Foles will be a boost to the team and give Tavon Austin a bump in his stats, but it’s too little too late for a club that’s been chronically struggling. Nothing is going to go right for the Rams this year, with hints of improvement overshadowed by the oppressive weight of the same old, same old. Fisher gets to leave at the end of the season for a more rewarding gig with a smaller paycheck.

 

Arizona Cardinals:

 photo cardinals_zps8p35unzb.jpg

 

We get it Bruce Arians, you’re a really good coach who turned around a fairly obscure team and made them a scrappy contender. And yet… I just don’t believe. I kind of want to believe, but I just don’t. For me Arians is the only real example of heart and drive this team has, and he’s pretty laconic on game day to be sure. Yeah, I’ve got a soft spot for Carson Palmer, and what’s not to like about Larry Fitzgerald? But while Larry’s showing no signs of slowing down, I think this is the season we finally start to see a more pronounced decline in his production as Michael Floyd is more heavily relied upon.

While the offense has been clicking nicely, the defense is a legitimate concern. In the 2014 season they luckily ended up with stats that didn’t reflect their win/loss numbers one bit, ending up in the lower-middle half of the pecking order. All due respect to Arians, but I won’t be one bit surprised if the Cardinals don’t repeat last season’s success, even with all those much talked about injured players returning.

 

The crystal ball says:

 

Appearing in a commercial is the kiss of death for any non-quarterback, so naturally Larry Fitzgerald’s numbers will decline this year. Michael Floyd will bounce back from that nasty hand injury he sustained in training camp, and Andre Ellington will continue to provide satisfactory ground work. The Cardinals will have a great season, but they’re simply not going to win as many games as they did last year. With the Seahawks all but a lock as the division champions, they’re going to have to work their asses off for another wild card spot, which I don’t think they actually get.

 

Seattle Seahawks:

 

 photo seattleseahawks copy_zpstnt4fc4i.jpg

 

Pete Carroll’s got a hell of a thing going on up there in Seattle. I was gobsmacked at the Jimmy Graham trade and half expected Roger Goodell to pick up the red phone in his concrete bunker and put the kibosh on the whole thing in the name of monopoly busting. With Russell Wilson’s contract ironed out and Marshawn Lynch’s decision to stick it out a few more years, the gulls dodged a couple scary bullets. And even if they can’t work out a deal with Kam Chancellor’s inflamed ego, the defense is still going to remain the gold standard.

The difficulty with this much talent is keeping it all together. We’ve seen some lulls in productivity, even during last year’s Super Bowl run, where Carroll couldn’t quite make the individual offensive pieces sing in harmony. Speaking of the Super Bowl, let’s not forget that much analyzed and questioned pass play that resulted in a last minute loss to the Patriots. It was a bitter pill to swallow then, but now the Seahawks have a hard earned chip on their shoulder, giving them purpose.

 

The crystal ball says:

 

These guys are going to be a blast to watch with an explosive and unpredictable offense paired with that defense you’re always hearing about. The crystal ball is unusually clear for a change, predicting a return to the Super Bowl for Seattle with an excellent chance of a rematch against another worthy New England team. This time however, it’s personal.

 

 


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