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HBO Hard Knocks

What We Learned From Hard Knocks Ep. 4


FRISCO, Texas – It's surreal to see things play out on TV a week apart from reality.

The Cowboys cut their roster down to the regular season limit of 53 on Tuesday afternoon. But on Tuesday night, the final week of their training camp played out on HBO's "Hard Knocks."

As the preseason inches to a close, here's a look at where things stand on NFL Film's behind-the-scenes look at the Cowboys:

Hot Enough For You?

It was a constant topic of conversation during the first week back from California, so naturally the return to the Texas weather played out on camera. The Cowboys have practiced outside regularly in Frisco's 90-plus degree heat for the past two weeks, and it hasn't always been easy sledding.

Obviously, the team plays half of its games in an indoor stadium, so acclimating to the weather isn't as important as it might have been at one point in time. But with the season opener just a week away – outdoors, in Tampa, Florida – it's understandable if Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy wants to get his team prepared.

Filling A Role

"Hard Knocks" had already zeroed in on JaQuan Hardy as a character of interest during this trip through the preseason, but Hardy's situation was highlighted on an even bigger stage this week.

This episode revealed that the injury that sidelined Rico Dowdle for the season was a fractured hip, which makes it that much more remarkable that he was able to return to the practice field after he suffered the injury in the preseason loss to Houston.

In the present, we already know that Hardy has been released, with the Cowboys hoping to bring him back to the practice squad. But the episode highlighted what teams are looking for when they spur their younger players into a larger role, and it posed the question of how the team might go about finding a new third running back.

It could conceivably still be Hardy, though that seems unlikely. Finding a third running back will be one of the biggest priorities facing the front office between now and Week 1.

Iron Sharpens Iron

Arguably the best parts of this show have been the one-off vignettes that highlight a player's mentality.

Last week, we got to see CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper discussing the finer points of route running. This week, we got to see Cooper and Trevon Diggs get after each other in a battle for bragging rights.

The whole thing was started by Dak Prescott, who hadn't returned to the competitive portion of practice at the time of filming. But after some friendly trash talk, Prescott locked Diggs into a bet that he wouldn't allow Cooper to make a single catch during the team portions of practice.

As the film crew went on to show, Cooper made several catches – including a game-winner on the last play of two-minute drill. It was a fun look inside at the competitive fire that fuels all three players – Cooper, Diggs and Prescott.

Dead On D-Law

File this under things that need to be seen rather than explained, but just trust that Tarell Basham has a fantastic DeMarcus Lawrence impression.

The Cowboys went to a comedy club as part of a team building exercise, and Basham tried his hand at a routine. Among his jokes was an impression of Lawrence that is definitely deserving of your time.

What's Next?

It's pretty clear that the show has zeroed in on IsaacAlarcón, Azur Kamara and JaQuan Hardy as its three most compelling storylines of camp.

The problem is that those of us that follow the team closely know how this plays out. Alarcón was released on Tuesday, though he will be added to the team's practice squad with an exemption thanks to the NFL's International Player Pathway Program. Hardy was also released, and it's a solid bet he will find his way to the practice squad. Kamara made the initial 53-man roster, though it's possible he will still be released. Even if that happens, it's a good bet he also will find his way to the team's 16-man practice squad.

With all of that in mind, it will be interesting to see how the crew of "Hard Knocks" handles this final week before the finale. What surprises might still be in store, and how might it be filmed? We'll know soon – and pretty soon after, it will be time to kick off in Tampa.