Hard Knocks Week 3 Recap: O’Brien Picks a QB


The J.J. Watt show continues in week three as training camp spills into pre-season games. J.J. kicks off the episode leading the team in a expletive-heavy pep talk about how the Texans are the baddest [men] in the league when they set foot on the field.

We’re reaching the point in the Hard Knocks season where we’re going to see cuts. This week, we see our first one: rookie defensive end Jasper Coleman. Former Texan’s safety Quintin Demps was brought in for workouts and Coach O’Brien apparently liked what he saw. Coleman’s spot on the roster was replaced with Demps. The Texans were in need of a defensive back more than a defensive lineman. Remember, they have the best D back in the league in J.J. Watt.

But while one door closes, another one opens. And that door is wide open for former college star linebacker Jadeveon Clowney. Clowney takes the field for practice for the first time this year. He was sidelined for nearly all of last year with a knee injury.

HBO’s training montage always make players look impressive, but Clowney is only shown training with tackle dummies. Clowney says himself that his knee feels great, but that he’s rusty. It will take time for him to get acclimated to the speed of the NFL.

When Clowney isn’t the focus of the camera, Watt is back to center stage. He dominates a contact practice with tipped balls, blitzes and a forced fumble. As if he didn’t look like a force to be reckoned with in a normal NFL game, the HBO production of Hard Knocks makes him look like Superman.

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There hasn’t been a ton of time spent with the Texan’s wide receivers this year. Uzoma “E.Z.” Nwachukwu is one of the first to get a positive profile on this year’s Hard Knocks. He’s a rookie that shows promise, receiving praise from Coach O’Brien and QB Brian Hoyer. He has an electric personality, which is on full display in a visit to NASA. He actually gets to talk to NASA astronauts that are on the space station. It was a pretty cool feature, even by Hard Knocks’ high standards.

The fancy sock man cornerback Charles James is stuck with the tough task of covering J.J. Watt, who the staff tries out as a pass catching wide receiver. O’Brien discusses with GM Rick Smith about the possibility of James playing some running back. The Texans are a little light at the running back position since Arian Foster tweaked his groin in week one. James’ performance at RB is impressive. I’m curious to see if the Texans stick to this tactic.

Vomit alert! The Houston heat is starting to get to some of the players. Brian Cushing blows chunks at about the 20-minute mark of this week’s episode, and it’s not just a little bit. Cushing hurls a lot of liquid multiple times. Fast forward through it if you’re squeamish about such things. Cushing springs right up afterwards, which is impressive when you see how much liquid he lost.

Comedy in the film room is nothing new to Hard Knocks. We saw it last week with the rookie haircuts. It’s on display once again this week with a spot on Ric Flair impression from Sean Hayes, the assistant strength coach. It’s worth this week’s price of admission alone.

Khari Lee does a perfect Bill O’Brien Impression

Chris Polk also gets some impressive screen time as RB. Formerly a RB on the Philadelphia Eagles, Polk has a good chance of getting reps for the Texans due to their running back situation. Hard Knocks has a habit of making players seem better than they actually are, but Polk may be one to watch this year if Foster isn’t healthy.

When they aren’t on the field, the team has to find ways to pass time. They do so with the homemade locker room game called “Swinnis.” It’s a combination of soccer and tennis. Tape outlines the boundaries, while another piece of tape between two chairs acts as the net. Players have to bounce the ball back and forth over the net using anything but their hands. The montage plays to the music of Top Gun’s volleyball scene. It looks like it gets pretty competitive.

In classic Hark Knocks fashion, the last third of the episode is devoted to that week’s preseason game. This test was against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. The coaches and players seem to be in awe of Manning’s skill and career. The defense dominates the Broncos early even without Clowney, Watt and Willfork on the field.

The defense started off strong during the opening position, but Manning eventually broke them down and scored a long touchdown bomb to WR Emmanuel Sanders.

The Texans defense doesn’t look like it’s going to be a problem this year, but the offense could be a huge red flag. The offense struggles throughout the game. O’Brien calls a timeout just to give the entire offense and earful. They look woefully inept. They rebound in the second half with their first score of the game, but it’s just a field goal.

”Bill O’Brien brings Hoyer and Ryan Mallett to the meeting room to announce the decision. He goes with Brian Hoyer stating consistency as his reasoning.”

Linebacker Courtney Brown has the play of the game with an interception returned for a touchdown. It’s the Texans’ first TD of the game, but it wasn’t enough. The Broncos strike again with a late TD to put the game away.

The episode winds down with a heartwarming look at Bill O’Brien’s family life. Coach O’Brien’s son Jack suffers from a brain malformation called lissencephaly. Doctors said he wouldn’t live to be two and today is his 13th birthday. Bill O’Brien makes it home to celebrate with his son. Bill’s wife Colleen praises him in a camera interview saying that she couldn’t ask for a better father for their kids.

One position that hasn’t had much screen time is arguably the most important position on the field: the quarterback. We’re still waiting to see who the starting QB is going to be. Coach O’Brien hasn’t made the announcement yet. That is, until this episode. He brings Hoyer and Mallett to the meeting room to announce the decision. Bill O’Brien goes with Brian Hoyer. He states consistency as his reasoning.

So what do you think of this year’s Hard Knocks? Do you like Houston’s chances this year? There are only two episodes left. Be sure to catch up or watch the remaining two!

Next week on Hard Knocks, D Coordinator gets some camera time, and the players study playbooks. The Texans take on the Saints and J.J. Watt sacks Drew Brees.