After last week’s episode, we saw the Dolphins roster cut from 90 to 75. Usually those are the easy cuts. When it really becomes difficult is when they make the last roster cut to get to the 53 man roster. It means taking a really hard look at those players “on the bubble”. Those players have one week and one game to prove they can play in the NFL. The fourth game of the preseason is usually reserved for these players. The starters usually don’t even suit up. The only problem is the Dolphins need all the work they can get and Coach Philbin knows it.
One thing I’ve noticed throughout this whole series is that Coach Joe Philbin is a very smart and meticulous man. In fact the brilliant and beautiful way he set up two practice offenses to run plays back to back very quickly surely will be adopted by teams around the league next preseason. Even with these great qualities there is something missing from Joe Philbin. He’s not the boisterous yelling coach like Rex Ryan, he’s not the “rah rah” coach like Pete Carroll, and at times he lacks confidence. Then again if I was dealt the hand of wide receivers he was, I too would be feeling very shaky. Especially since you are going to throw a rookie QB out on the field.
This episode focuses on easily the worst wide receiver corps in the league. The Dolphins have 11 wide receivers in camp and none of them would be higher than 4th or 5th on another team’s depth chart. The rookies are forced to step up and show the coaches their ability. One receiver impressed at the NFL combine running the fastest 40 time for all wide receivers. Clyde Gates’ blazing speed made him an interesting choice. Unfortunately blazing speed means very little if you don’t know how to run a route in the NFL. Gates does not and this makes him nothing more than just a really fast guy. Chris Hogan is another receiver Hard Knocks has shown in these episodes seemingly getting open all the time and earning him the nickname “7-11” because he is always open. What is evident in this episode is that Hogan’s ability to get open has vanished probably because the cornerbacks are finally realizing they need to defend him tighter. As we see in the preseason game, the wide receivers didn’t really turn the coaches’ heads. This makes the roster cuts both easy and difficult. Easy because most of the receivers looked terrible and difficult because it means they need to figure out which ones may actually be able to contribute to the team. Both Gates and Hogan get released. Fortunately for both they find opportunities ahead. Gates gets picked up by the New York Jets and Hogan is signed to the Dolphins practice squad meaning he gets to keep gaining experience even if he doesn’t suit up on Sundays.
Since we are talking about the wide receivers, I guess we need to talk about the show’s little chat with Chad Johnson post altercation and release. When I watched Hard Knocks a couple years ago when they followed the Cincinnati Bengals, I got to see the real Chad Johnson. The Chad Johnson that works really hard at his position and the Chad Johnson that doesn’t drink alcohol while sitting in a bar quietly by himself as he buys drinks for fans. I really liked Chad then and fully accepted the crazy narcissism as just him being funny. Chad Johnson does really work hard although I’m not sure we needed the workout montage in this episode. Seemed more like an advertisement to other teams in the league or just desperation. Chad Johnson is over the top with his rhetoric about how great he is even though he’s had a mediocre career. Its hard to feel sorry for him. Domestic violence isn’t acceptable and hopefully he learns from his mistake. Unfortunately, I think his football career is over. What’s even more sad is he would still be the best wide receiver the Dolphins would put on the field.
Now onto the quarterback situation. The Dolphins currently have 4 QBs on their roster. Most teams only carry 3 QBs going into the season. This leaves an interesting situation. Tannehill is the starting QB and although he seems kind of dumb, as we see perpetuated by his inability to put together an Ikea end table with his wife, he is safe. Matt Moore, Pat Devlin, and David Garrard are not. We understand very clearly from this episode that Joe Philbin has a fanboy relationship with Pat Devlin. He really likes the rookie and Devlin does seem very capable. It almost makes you feel sorry for Matt Moore. Moore led the Dolphins last year as the starting QB and did as best as he could considering the wide receivers were almost the same group of guys except Brandon Marshall. Moore also performs poorly in the final preseason game. The situation becomes tense when we see Philbin asking Jeff Ireland, the general manager, if any teams have called about one of their QBs. Ireland replies “No.” They decide to keep all four in an unprecedented move. Sadly at the end of the episode we learn the Dolphins release David Garrard. This was probably their best option although Garrard would have provided a much needed veteran backup and experience to the other three.
The Dolphins 53 man roster is selected and those players making the team can breathe a sigh of relief for another year. This is the nature of the National Football League. Men trying to prove that all those drills and hours lifting weights will equate to a chance to pull on a jersey and run out of the tunnel on Sunday. This struggle is what makes this show great and why people love professional football. Hard Knocks has by far the quickest turnaround of all the reality shows. They literally film all week and the weekend game then get one day to edit down the footage and add the narration/storylines for air on Tuesday evening. Only HBO can do this and do it well. Let’s just hope they pick a more interesting team next year.