I have to admit that I'm a huge fan of HBO's "Hard Knocks" series. It's a high-quality production, and it gives us rare behind-the-scenes access to an NFL team. The soundtrack is so good that I downloaded it and include it in my workout mix.
Although the subjects change every year, there's often some repetition in the storylines and themes that are featured each season. With the Houston Texans as the next team to be featured on the show, I think that a post discussing those "retread" topics would be a good primer for the upcoming Hard Knocks season.
One of my favorite storylines that HBO often includes in a given season is the underdog player who is trying to make the team. When they show him with his wife, girlfriend, or family, and they share information on his background and the tough path to the NFL, it just highlights how difficult it is to make any roster in this league. There's nothing more emotional than when that player gets "the call" from the team's head coach or general manager and they receive the news that they made the ball club. I can't wait to see which player will be the poster child of success for the 2015 Texans.
I also enjoy when the cameras are allowed into the home of a player or coach because we get to see the effects of the NFL life on the families. You get to see how well they live on those amazing salaries, but you also hear and see how much sacrifice the wife and kids make while the player or coach is gone for so many hours a day. I hope we get to see some family time for Bill O'Brien, Mike Vrabel, and of course Vince and Bianca Wilfork.
The QB Room
Watching how the quarterbacks behave in their meeting room is usually good airtime. It's interesting to see what type of leadership skills they have with the rest of the team, especially in directing the wide receivers. When there is a quarterback battle underway, it tends to be the hot topic of the show until the starter is announced. Then it is always fun to see their chemistry as the signal-callers settle into their newly-ranked roles on the depth chart.
This is always the hardest part of the show for me. The road to the NFL is hard enough. Getting injured and set back for weeks, months, or even the entire season is brutal to witness. It's part of the game of football, we know that, but it is rough to see these players face the fact that they will miss time.
Getting to 53
Throughout training camp, teams have to go from 90 players at the start to the best 53 athletes who will make the final roster. Watching the position coaches negotiate their depth charts in the meeting room is an interesting insight as to how this process works for a given franchise. Seeing a player get the news that he has been traded or cut is often very dramatic and emotional. I'll never forget the scene when Vontae Davis was traded from the Dolphins to the Colts.
Those were just a few areas of the show that often have me tuning in each week. Now let's talk about possible story-lines that may take place this season for our Houston Texans.
Rick Smith - The GM usually gets airtime as they show him crafting the roster alongside the coaches, when they extend contracts to veterans during camp, and when they do the hard job of notifying a player about a trade or release from the team. I'm sure we'll see Rick doing some of this in the upcoming season, which will be an interesting departure from an organization that typically limits that type of access.
Bill O'Brien - There is little doubt that Bill will be one of the stars of the show with his entertaining quips and facial expressions while addressing players and the media; he is quickly becoming a fan favorite. I hope they also spend some time covering his family as they settle into their second year in Houston.
Romeo Crennel and Mike Vrabel - Both of these guys could bring a lot of entertainment this season. Word has it that they may compete in topping the great performance of Bryan Cox, who stole the show last season when the Falcons were the featured team. I wonder if Vrabel got his Super Bowl rings back after that burglary last year.
J.J. Watt - This guy is everywhere! Some folks may even suggest that there is "coverage exhaustion" kicking in for a player who may be the new face of the NFL. I disagree. I can't get enough of our superstar doing amazing things under the spotlight. We know we'll see plenty of Watt throughout the series, but will we learn anything new? Will this national coverage help leverage an MVP title in 2015?
Brian Cushing - After an amazing start to his NFL career, he suffered two back-to-back season-ending injuries. Is the player who was often regarded as "the heart of the defense" back at full health?
Jadeveon Clowney - The story of his rehab and return to action will likely be a key focus throughout the show. When a player enters the league with as much hype as Clowney did as a "generational talent" and the first overall pick from the 2014 NFL Draft, then misses most of his rookie season due to injuries, it's going to be a compelling element to draw in viewers who want to know if he's going to end up as a bust or on his way toward greatness.
Vince Wilfork - The cameras just HAVE to be covering this guy at some point, right? He brings a national audience with him to Houston, and I hear he is quite a family man and a BBQ pitmaster legend. BBQ GIF in the comments section in 3, 2, 1...
QB Battle - I have great confidence that this will be the hottest topic for the first episode (or two) until the matter is resolved. O'Brien should make an early decision to ensure the starter gets maximum reps with the team to be ready for the regular season. Until then, we'll be glued to our screens as these guys compete.
David Quessenberry - Is he ready for training camp? What a terrific story to cover if he is back with the team after battling Lymphoma. Get your "DQ" shirts ready just in case!
Underdog - Who will be the mostly-unknown underdog trying to make the roster this year? Will they air the moment that he gets the call to hear that he made the team?
Other - What other player and/or topic are you most interested to see this season? Could it be: "things that Ben Jones is willing to eat," or some other satire-worthy content about your favorite team? Sound off below with your thoughts, and don't forget to vote!