HBO’s Hard Knocks 2018: Episode 2 Review
Corey Coleman does have an impressive collection of sneakers. Unfortunately for him, his football cleats aren’t near as impressive. The third year receiver was shipped to Buffalo at the beginning of Episode 2 of HBO’s Hard Knocks series on Tuesday night.
Coleman was frustrated about running with the second team in camp, and voiced his frustration to head coach Hue Jackson. Coleman stated to Jackson, “If y’all don’t want me to play, why don’t y’all just trade me.”. Without another word being said, Coleman was on his way to Buffalo for a pack of shoestrings. I got the sense from Episode 2 that this is not the time to try Hue Jackson’s patience. After the passing of his brother and mother in the last month, facing a make-or-break season as head coach of the Browns, and trying to clean up a culture of losing, the more vocal Hue Jackson emerged in Episode 2.
Now that the housekeeping was done, we can get to football. Well…not quite yet. The guy expected to fill the cleats of Coleman is rookie Antonio Callaway. I encourage everyone to click on Antonio’s name and read NostraDANus’ draft profile from just a few months ago when he had to list out off-field concerns about Callaway separately in his piece. We’re just two weeks into camp, this kid has a golden opportunity, and here we go again. He was pulled over and ticketed for marijuana possession early last Sunday morning. While the actual offense itself is not a huge deal, it’s the concerns the Browns have over bad decision making, and putting trust in a guy that may not be able to make that college kid to professional transition. It happens all the time.
Another guy the Browns will be leaning heavily on for offense this season is tight end David Njoku. We learned that sometimes meditation and being at ease mentally will not help you catch footballs. Sometimes it may actually hurt. There are times when you just need to be force fed footballs at a high rate until it clicks.
Speaking of tight ends, there is another one on the squad that got attention on Episode 2 and that is Devon Cajuste from Stanford. Cajuste went undrafted in 2016 and was eventually signed by the 49ers as a practice squad member, and spent last year in the same role with the Packers. He will be looking to make a 53 man NFL roster for the first time in his short career this year in Cleveland. This episode took several sentimental looks at Devon and his dad, who Devon was told would only have a few years to live when he was 13. Now, with his dad by his side, he is trying to live out his dreams as an NFL player. This feels like one of the players the producers of the show want to get close to because he could be one of the last heartbreaking cuts the Browns have to make, and in turn, will bring drama to this years’ series. Cajuste will be battling Orson Charles, who was just signed, another third year guy Seth DeValve, and rookie Julian Allen for that 3rd string TE spot. It will also depend on how many TE’s the Browns want to keep on the 53 man roster.
We end the final practice before the first preseason game with a stoppage by coach Jackson to say you guys aren’t looking the part of an NFL team (I cleaned that up for our audience). They were walking back to the huddle and just looking unmotivated and lethargic. Jackson knows that he won’t make it through 16 games this year if that is the effort his guys are going to give. A franchise that has won ONE game in the last two seasons needs to be more pissed off, and giving more of an effort that any franchise in the NFL. The Browns at times through camp just aren’t displaying that sense of urgency. They often act like a beaten down franchise.
So we fast forward to the first preseason game against the Giants. This is where the last 20 minutes of the episode was spent. It was actually where the Browns have looked the best so far this camp as well. Tyrod Taylor went 5-for-5 in his first drive with a touchdown. Jarvis Landry looked juiced as always. Bless him. Baker Mayfield finished the rest of the way and looked really poised and sharp as well, even throwing a 53 yard strike to the other rookie, Antonio Callaway. If all the off-the-field issues are suppressed, the Browns may have a heck of a future one-two combo in Mayfield and Callaway. We’ll see.
Njoku was catching balls and Cajuste was also showing a lot of heart, blocking and catching, with a banged up shoulder that was obviously killing him. The defense however got absolutely scolded by defensive coordinator Gregg Williams at halftime. I’ll just say this is why I have always loved the Hard Knocks series on HBO. Because it is uncensored. But the Browns are going to need a lot more of that this year to be competitive. A lot of the guys don’t seem to have that internal sense of urgency as to how serious this season, and the situation is for the Browns.
The Browns did pick up the win over the Giants in Preseason Week 1, 20-10.
Looking ahead to next week, I will be curious to see if we hear more about the running backs. You have seen or heard absolutely zero from the backfield in the first two episodes. Rookie Nick Chubb either has a really quiet demeanor, or he is scared to death. He has had the deer-in-headlights look every short time the camera has been on him. We also haven’t heard anything from newly acquired Carlos Hyde, or Duke Johnson. That has been a little surprising as those roles are usually some of the more vocal, prominent roles on a football team. We’ll see.
Through the first two episodes, I get the sense that the passion and burning desire to climb out of the cellar just isn’t there with the makeup of this team. Hue Jackson is trying to be more vocal, and Todd Haley and Gregg Williams have no problem voicing their displeasure. Tyrod Taylor has also shown that he wants to be, and is capable of being a team leader. Despite winning the first preseason game of the year, it just appears the culture of losing has taken the wind out of the sails of this franchise. They need a consistent motivating element to practice and the locker room. Something to always be excited about. Right now, it’s just not there.
Catch Hard Knocks on HBO every Tuesday night at 10pm ET through September 4th.