Tuesday night’s episode of HBO’s annual training camp series “Hard Knocks” focused on Dan Campbell’s Detroit Lions. How did Episode 2 compare to the lively premiere, which reaffirmed Campbell’s fondness for quotable pep talks? Take a look at who came out on top and who fell short:
It was the Lions’ receiving corps that came out on top.
Campbell singled out former Rams backup Josh Reynolds, who emerged as Jared Goff’s deep threat late in 2021, after practice and gave him the nicknames “Big Smooth” and “The Serpent of F—-ing Death.” I can’t even begin to fathom what would happen if the NFL approved that for his nameplate. Reynolds’s success serves as a sobering reminder that the Lions’ wide receiver group as a whole is significantly underrated. While the rookie Jameson Williams has the potential to be a game-changer when he returns from injury, Amon-Ra St. Brown still has a lot of speed to work with thanks to Reynolds and D.J. Chark.
D’Andre Swift, the loser.
The star running back took more criticism in Episode 2 than anyone else on the team, including the backup quarterback who lost a game-winning field goal in the preseason. Campbell’s right-hand man Duce Staley has been very optimistic about Swift’s future as the starting running back, saying things like, “You can be the best in this league, you really can.” However, the former second-round pick was the source of even more frustration and, at times, rage on his part. Initially, he voiced his opinion in front of other coaches that Swift doesn’t have the “dawg mentality,” or the confidence and resolve necessary to succeed. Then, in the first game of preseason, he yanked Swift from the action after only two subpar touches. Swift managed to recover and score in the end, but it would be surprising if Detroit didn’t continue to rely on veteran No. 2 Jamaal Williams going forward.
Malcolm Rodriguez was the victor.
There’s a good chance you should learn the name if you aren’t already familiar with it. Despite the low bar for the rookie Oklahoma State linebacker to clear to make an immediate impact in the Lions’ defense, he is on track to start the season as a starter in 2022, despite being drafted in the sixth round. After a particularly intense and competitive practice, linebackers coach Kelvin Sheppard essentially dared Rodriguez to steal a starting position, and then he blasted Rodriguez’s fellow ‘backers for being unable to match his intelligence: “If he’s the better guy, he’s the better guy!”
Kevin Durant, the loser
I doubt anyone foresaw the NBA superstar picking up a stray during a show about the Lions on television, but Amon-father, Ra’s John Brown, used Kevin Durant as an example of an athlete who can’t keep himself in shape by asking, “When’s the last time you did a calf raise?” Dang.
Aidan Hutchinson was the victor.
Perhaps his loved ones looked a little out of place in the luxury booth at the stadium as he made his first tackles of the preseason. Detroit, however, has itself a man who is already physically and technically superior to second- and third-team NFL players, as was evident during his limited action. He needs to be effective in his pass rush when the real games start.
David Blough, the loser
Despite the emotional toll a preseason fumble may have had on the backup quarterback, the team must not drop a Shotgun snap in the final two minutes of the game. Before the blunder, Blough had already emphasized to his teammates the importance of how they perform in the first preseason game. Melissa Gonzalez, a hurdler who is training for the 2024 Olympics, and her husband Goff seem to be his most steadfast supporters. He may be permanently relegated to the bench in favor of Tim Boyle.
Congratulations, Amon-Ra St. Brown!
It could be argued that St. Brown belongs with the other top Lions receivers, but his prominent role in Episode 2 warrants special recognition. It’s clear that this 22-year-old, who is likely Goff’s favorite target heading into the new season, is committed to his work. He’s not only got a good memory, as he was able to name all 16 receivers taken before him in the 2021 draft, but he also admitted to catching 202 passes per day from the JUGS machine. No surprise there; his father, two-time Mr. Universe bodybuilder John Brown, spent his entire radio career preaching the virtues of hard work and dedication to one’s craft.
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