HBO News Blog

Hard Knocks Falcons: Full Contact

By Andrew Lovgren on Aug 13, 2014 to HBO Sports

The NFL preseason is in full swing, and Hard Knocks is picking up the pace. The second episode fixed many of the problems with the premiere, offering fewer story-lines at once and focusing on the on-the-field action. While the show still focused an incredible amount of time on the player’s (admittedly attractive) wives, viewers were given a more in-depth look to the hard work and competition that goes into the final product.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons-Training Camp

Beginning with a look at General Manager Thomas Dimitrioff, the show set the stage for the perennial drama of preseason cuts. Rookies and veterans alike spend the preseason fighting for a roster spot. This episode focused mostly on the LB corps, which is especially important for Atlanta after losing team captain Sean Weatherspoon to a season-ending Achilles injury earlier this year. Two rookie LBs, Jacques Smith and Tyler Starr, were given a chance to shine on special teams, something that might help them stand out when it comes to final cuts.

Fellow rookie LB Prince Shembo is an earlier leader for the team. He has taken the initiative to meet with Weatherspoon to better learn the defensive schemes and the various LB positions. Shembo has taken that information and used it to become a vocal leader on the field. How that translates to on-the-field play results remains to be seen, but it’s a promising start for a team in need for a strong, defensive presence.

Much of the episode highlighted early second-round pick Ra’Shede Hageman, a defensive lineman out of Minnesota. Hageman possesses incredible physical attributes, but hasn’t yet fully transitioned to the speed and techniques needed for NFL success. However, it’s incredibly early in his young career, and he showed that he’s willing to listen to coaches and work hard to correct mistakes.


Roddy White continues to be the most interesting, and maybe only, personality on the offensive side of the ball. Rookie RB Devonta Freeman, who is inexplicably listed as 4th on the unofficial depth chart, was given a large amount of playing time. Matt Ryan made a few token appearances. But White was the only one to show both leadership and a personality, saying and showing that you can enjoy the game while working hard. More of White on the show can only improve it as it goes on, offering an interesting veteran presence among the scripted, cliche diatribes of his teammates.

Now that preseason games, scrimmages, and position battles are in full swing, Hard Knocks should continue to grow at a faster pace, adding more interest with each new episode. While the show’s second episode was leaps and bounds ahead of the premiere as far as action, a few moments still managed to bring the pacing back to a crawl. Sure, if I just wanted the football side, I could watch a game, but a healthy mixture of the football and personal stories doesn’t seem like too much to ask for a show focusing on a football team.

What have you enjoyed watching? Who/what would you like to see more of as the season progresses?

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