Two episodes of Hard Knocks are now in the books, and I suppose we could see this coming — after a season premiere that gave us enough content to carry a five-hour radio show last Wednesday, the second episode of the season was a bit of a tumble from the sugar high of the first.
Perhaps it took us only a week to desensitize ourselves to Bill O'Brien's being a volcano whose lava is the word "fuck"; maybe we're still waiting for a seminal Hard Knocks moment (like Antonio Cromartie trying to name all of his illegitimate kids back in 2010), but the feeling I got watching Episode 2 was "Man, if I weren't in Houston, I think I'd have been pretty bored watching that." Don't get me wrong, there were some funny moments (Charles James, God bless you), but I think the rest of America needs to see some guys get cut from the team pretty soon, like Sopranos fans waiting for someone to get whacked.
Still, some things did happen on the show. Here are my highlights:
1. The show opens with O'Brien skewering his team during halftime of the 49ers game, getting off an early "fuck" and "bullshit" in the process. The best part of the scene, to me, was Jon Weeks standing right next to O'Brien with a really serious, somber look on his face, as if O'Brien were yelling at him personally. Meanwhile, inside, Weeks was probably like, "Fuck it, I'm the goddamn long snapper...guess who has two thumbs and did his job perfectly that half?? THIS GUY…."
2. The producers focus in on undrafted rookie Lynden Trail, and the poor bastard is a mess. The Texans' defense may as well be the Hubble Telescope, he'd have a better chance of figuring out how it works. Linebackers coach Mike Vrabel basically puts Trail in timeout, and when he asks for a pass rusher a few minutes later to run a play, Trail tries to go in and Vrabel is like, "WHOA, TRAIL… slow down…stay put…you suck at football, bro." (I'm paraphrasing what Vrabel said.) I'd like to think there's a deleted scene where Vrabel makes Trail ride home on the cheerleader bus, like Coach Nickerson did to Stef in All The Right Moves.
3. The good news is we get to see Trail eating dinner with his girlfriend and her daughter after practice, and the little girl (who is maybe five years old) eats shrimp with the shells still on it. Vrabel promptly puts her ahead of Trail on the Texans' depth chart.
4. We get a sequence where Brian Cushing goes full-on '80s Billy Zabka on pretty much every teammate with a tenure of less than three years with the team. He's asked by one teammate if he likes Starbucks, and Cushing says he used to, until he "realized he wasn't a chick." He then rags on Vrabel's son's haircut before destroying Alfred Blue in a blitz pickup drill by tossing him to the ground with one hand. From there, Cushing put on his red leather Kobra Kai jacket and bandanna, and sped off on his motor bike, screaming "NO MERCY!!"
5. Bill O'Brien says, "Let's talk about the media now…," which makes me perk up! I was really hoping O'Brien would go one at a time, and talk about each media member in Houston. "Now here's Sean Pendergast…he hosts your post-game show…good guy, good teammate, works hard…I like this fucking guy…" Alas, we instead got O'Brien coaching up all the rookies on how to answer questions they don't feel like answering, telling them to use phrases like "I'm working hard," "trying to be a good teammate" and "I'm takin' it one day at a time." Somewhere along the way, O'Brien actually used the word "slapdick," but I don't recall in what context. (THAT may have been the part where he was talking about me.) One thing we do know — one year later, we can safely say that O'Brien wholeheartedly approved of this media session with Arian Foster:
6. Kareem Jackson and Johnathan Joseph are doing stuff together! This is AWESOME-TIME! This week, they're shopping for baby clothes in the Galleria, and I quickly realize that I would watch the two of them do pretty much anything together. Some network should reprise Bosom Buddies and have Kareem and J-Jo starring as the new Kip and Henry. (Also, at this point, you begin to realize how milquetoast these Texans are, when shopping at the Galleria is as entertaining as they get. I was practically hoping that the episode would show either Kareem or J-Jo get caught shoplifting something just to spice things up.)
7. DeAndre Hopkins is openly discussing owning a Yorkie and carrying it around in some sort of European man purse. He is talking about this with the other receivers as they stretch out, and even worse, they're engaged in the conversation. Somewhere, every Oakland Raider from the '70s is rolling over in their graves.
8. Bob McNair and Jadeveon Clowney are hanging out, chitchatting, and McNair asks how Clowney is healing. They apparently deleted the part where McNair was like, "Listen, asshole, I'm obligated to pay you $22 million, so you better get your ass back on the goddamn field, and I mean fucking YESTERDAY." This leads to a Clowney training montage that was encouraging (He looked explosive!), but would've been ten times more inspiring if "Hearts On Fire" from the Rocky IV sound track were playing in the background.
9. Now we're at home with Brian Cushing, where thankfully he doesn't bully his wife around nearly as much as he bullies Alfred Blue. Cushing has two young sons, one of them two and a half and the other just turned one. The two-and-a-half-year-old has stitches in his forehead. They say it's from hitting his head on the coffee table, but it's way more fun to think that the little fella did this to one of the other kids at daycare:
Then you realize that a) there's zero percent chance Cushing's wife has to work, and b) there seems to be a magnetic attraction of toddlers' foreheads to coffee tables, so coffee table is a logical culprit.
10. Cornerback Charles James owns a lot of socks, and we are seeing all of them. This was really the point of Episode 2 where I said, "Oh, shit, the nation was right. The Texans really are pretty damn boring. The sock collection of some no-name cornerback? REALLY?" Then they showed Charles James on the field. Then they showed Charles James getting in safety Corey Moore's face about being out of position. Then they showed Charles James telling Corey Moore, "They're gonna cut us both!" If Moore doesn't pull his head out of his ass. And then I immediately ordered a Charles James jersey. Because Charles James is amazing, and needs his own show.
11. Hey, it wouldn't be a Texans training camp if a third-round pick wasn't failing to impress the coaches one iota. Sam Montgomery two seasons ago, Louis Nix III last season, and now it's Jaelen Strong! Receivers coach Stan Hixon is sitting in a dark film room talking to Strong, explaining just how far behind he is. They're the only ones in the room, so it actually looks like detention. Then O'Brien is complaining during a film session about how bad Strong has been in camp. From there, the next day at practice, we get a cool window into O'Brien's management style as he gives Strong a pat on the ass and tells him to keep working hard. (Meanwhile, Lynden Trail sat over near the fence by himself poking holes in a Mike Vrabel voodoo doll.)
12. TRANSITION FROM ANDRE JOHNSON ERA METAPHOR ALERT: We get a full scene of an Andre Johnson poster being ripped down and replaced with a DeAndre Hopkins poster in NRG Stadium, with O'Brien's voice in the background saying how Hopkins was not too keen on coaching when they first got there, but now he's one of the top five players on the team. (Which got me thinking — who are the top five players on this team? When everyone is healthy, probably Watt, Foster, Cushing, Hopkins and a dogfight for the final spot between Duane Brown, Brandon Brooks and Johnathan Joseph? Am I missing anyone?)
13. They show all the rookies getting horrible haircuts at the hands of veterans, which begs the question...what's the rule on rookies with dreadlocks? Did Clowney get to skip the haircuts last season or did he just dismember anyone who stepped to him?
14. We get the goal line sequence where the Texans couldn't punch it in against San Francisco, despite trying roughly 36 times from the one-yard line. Two things we learned — a) Alfred Blue counts his chickens before they hatch, saying they would do the "nae nae" when they score, and b) O'Brien still gave Mallett some dap even though they didn't score a touchdown. "Good drive by you," he told Big Tex.
15. After being shown dropping every pass thrown his way in practice and being portrayed as someone with snowshoes for hands, Jaelen Strong catches a touchdown pass to close out the 49ers game. Everyone celebrates because now Jaelen Strong is good at football! YAY FOR JAELEN!! Would have loved to see them cut to a scene of Jaelen arriving at his locker after the game where he finds a Texans letterman jacket with his name and number on the back, like Lucas….
…or Connor Barwin.
16. Arian Foster's character may have really been killed off. Not even a mention of him this week. This makes me a hundred times sadder than when Ned Stark was killed off in Season 1 of Game of Thrones.
My suggestion to the producers for Episode 3 — please give us more of the following:
1. Ben Jones
2. Charles James
3. Mike Vrabel
4. Kareem Jackson and Johnathan Joseph doing shit together
5. Sean Hayes impersonating wrestlers
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Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast.