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HBO Hard Knocks

What We Learned From Hard Knocks Ep. 5


FRISCO, Texas – Highlights from the final episode of HBO's 2021 "Hard Knocks" chronicling Cowboys training camp:

D-Ware Teaches

First-round draft pick Micah Parsons' pass rush skills have been on display throughout camp. Who better to sharpen them than the Cowboys' retired all-time sack leader?

Ware, a former nine-time Pro Bowler with the Cowboys and Broncos, met up with Parsons and worked with the rookie linebacker on pass rush moves, including hand placement and first-step technique.

Ware also offered a couple tips for Parsons on facing the Bucs' seven-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Tom Brady in his NFL debut Thursday night. Beware, D-Ware said, of Brady calling out his number at the line of scrimmage as a little pre-snap "mind game."

Final Roster Cuts

Every year, the Cowboys' cut list to 53 players is announced via press release, but the beauty of "Hard Knocks" is its fly-on-the-wall glimpse of the discussions that lead to those decisions.

The camera captured head coach Mike McCarthy, Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones, chief operating officer Stephen Jones and vice president player personnel Will McClay evaluating the roster position-by-position. The clips centered on four roster hopefuls the HBO/NFL Films crew has followed throughout the series: offensive lineman Isaac Alarcón, defensive end Azur Kamara, running back JaQuan Hardy and quarterback Ben DiNucci.

McCarthy provided his assessment of DiNucci's second NFL camp, and it's clear the coach believes in his physical skill set, despite some tough moments in preseason. The key, as with any young quarterback, is mentally speeding up the process.

DiNucci, Alarcón and Hardy made the practice squad. Kamara, whose inspiring journey to the NFL was told in a previous episode, made the 53 – and he got a personal phone call from McCarthy, defensive line coach Aden Durde and special teams coordinator John Fassel.

Dak, Zeke Lead

Time flies. It's hard to believe quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott are entering their sixth NFL season together.

Their game has evolved since 2016, and so has their leadership skills. We got a closer look at the latter in Episode 5.

Elliott spent time at practice helping Hardy show more patience as a runner and letting the play develop behind his blockers. Prescott was front and center during a team conditioning run, encouraging guys during the workout and leading the huddle afterward.

Diggs Bounces Back

Remember when Trevon Diggs told Amari Cooper he wouldn't get a single catch during a recent competitive period in practice? Yeah, that didn't go as planned. The four-time Pro Bowl receiver decidedly won that particular battle against the second-year cornerback.

But the sign of a good corner is a short memory, and Diggs responded with multiple pass breakups (and a pass interference penalty) in his next matchup with Cooper.

Eyes On The Opener

As McCarthy said during the first team meeting after roster cuts, "We're all about Tampa now."

The six-week camp odyssey from Oxnard back to North Texas is complete. The regular season is here. Thursday night, they'll face the Super Bowl champs.

Jerry Jones put a bow on the five-episode series with some commentary from his office overlooking the outdoor practice fields at Ford Center at The Star in Frisco. He believes the offense, with Prescott and several key players healthy again, will return to form after so many injuries in 2020. He believes the defense is better with some roster changes and the hiring of defensive coordinator Dan Quinn.

The goal, as always, is to compete for a world championship.

"The game itself is only about a few percentage points of euphoria. And that's why I'm in it," Jones said with a smile. "Because when you hit that euphoria, there's nothing like it. And I do want some more of it."