While Episode 2 of HBO’s Hard Knocks may not have offered as many Dan Campbell-isms as the season debut, the Detroit Lions head coach was still at the center of the action. Let’s recap Tuesday night’s episode, which highlighted rookie linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez’s ascension, second-year wideout Amon-Ra St. Brown’s preparation, and tight end T.J. Hockenson’s short shorts.
Hard Knocks Episode 2 recap: Welcome to the NFL, Malcolm Rodriguez
Hard Knocks historically features late-round picks, players battling for a back-end roster spot who ultimately may end up getting cut. That’s not going to be the case with Rodriguez, a sixth-round pick out of Oklahoma State who’s closer to the starting lineup than he is to being waived.
Rodriguez, whom everyone in the Lions organization affectionately refers to as “Rodrigo,” is making waves at training camp. Competing in a linebacker room that includes incumbent starters Alex Anzalone, Chris Board, and Derrick Barnes, Rodriguez has been turning coaches’ heads.
“There ain’t much you can’t do on the field. You got me?” Lions linebackers coach Kelvin Sheppard asked Rodriguez. “I’m telling you right now, this year can be whatever you want it to be. Everything’s open for you right now. You got me? You just gotta go take it and do it.”
Sheppard took it a step further in a linebacker meeting, singling out Rodriguez for praise and asking the veteran LBs if they intend to lose their starting jobs to a first-year player.
“What do y’all want me to do, put him out there first?” Sheppard asked incredulously. “Because that’s what’s about to happen. This ain’t nothing against you, Rodriguez. Matter of fact, you’re playing your f—— a– off. But this is a rookie, who I’m doing everything I can to not put out there first.
“I’m sick of f—— saying it. He’s in the same f—— drills y’all are in…Keep playing your ass off, dude. And he’s gonna keep climbing the depth chart until somebody decides, ‘I’m not gonna let this rookie take my job…’
“I had a coach that’s been in this building for five years tell me he hasn’t seen a linebacker make that type of play since he’s been here. You all need to know this type of s—. This s— don’t need to be a secret.”
Given the glowing reports, Rodriguez might well make his way into the starting lineup before Week 1. Although he’s only 5-foot-11, his tenacity and aggressiveness are right up Campbell’s alley.
Dan Campbell still in the spotlight
Between Episode 1 and Episode 2, Hard Knocks shifted its focus from Detroit’s coaching staff to its players. But Campbell was still ever-present, handing out nicknames, offering advice, and wearing his GRIT hat.
After wide receiver Josh Reynolds made a play in a Lions practice two-minute drill, Campbell said he’d kiss him if he weren’t breathing so hard. Reynolds got a nickname (“Big Smooth: The Serpent of F—— Death”) as did veteran pass catcher Devin Funchess (“F—— Funchess Bunches of Oats”). And Campbell made sure to tell Hockenson that his shorts “really accentuated his butt cheeks.”
Campbell also had some genuinely sincere moments, such as when he checked in on Aidan Hutchinson and mentioned a specific play where Hutchinson excelled during a scrimmage. He also told a story about being rushed back into a preseason game with the Cowboys when he thought he was done for the night, imploring the Lions players to keep their head in the game even after they’ve been pulled.
“Here’s the one thing I’m gonna lose my s— over. I will f—— go apes—, man. If it’s later in the game, and you guys are out, some of you guys are out, and your teammates are out there, and some of these guys are scratching and clawing for spots, and I see you jacking around, looking up in the stands, you’re laughing, you’re not paying attention, you’re being f—— disrespectful to your teammate, I am gonna f—— lose it. Just so we’re on the same page. All good, man.”
Amon-Ra St. Brown doesn’t forget
St. Brown was the 112th overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft and the 16th wide receiver chosen — and he remembers every wideout chosen ahead of him. He told HBO’s crew he could name every WR who went off the board before him — and proceeded to do it while giving an absolute death stare to the camera.
St. Brown, who posted 90 receptions for 912 yards last season (both Lions rookie records), works out with his father, a former Mr. Universe, and his brother, Bears receiver Equanimeous St. Brown. He also revealed that he catches 202 balls from the JUGS machine daily because a childhood acquaintance said he caught 200 per day. St. Brown just might have a chip on his shoulder.
Quick hits from Hard Knocks Episode 2
- Assistant head coach/running backs coach Duce Staley, a key presence in Episode 1, was adamant that D’Andre Swift can be one of the best running backs in the league. He kept coaching Swift hard and telling him to remain disciplined even after he scored a touchdown in the Lions’ preseason game against the Falcons.
- Backup quarterback David Blough’s relationship was his wife, Olympic hurdler Melissa Gonzalez, was interesting to watch, especially as they both indicated the comfort in being able to relate to another human whose job involves athletic intensity. That made it all the more difficult when Gonzalez was forced to see Blough’s preseason fumble lead to an eventual Lions loss.
- St. Brown’s father, John Brown, on Hutchinson’s family’s seats for Detroit’s preseason contest: “They have a $20 million luxury box — they ain’t sitting with us!”
- Hutchinson’s sisters played the part of every casual fantasy football player who is only now realizing that Marcus Mariota is the Falcons’ starting quarterback.
- Staley being honest with the Lions running backs: “Some of y’all think you look good. Some of y’all think y’all fly. Some of y’all think y’all get these dates because you look good. But no, that’s not it. You get these dates because you got these f—— jerseys on. You just ‘happen’ to be in the f—— NFL. It ain’t because you look good. Don’t let anybody lie to you.”