The first episode of Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Detroit Lions introduced us to head coach Dan Campbell and his staff of passionate personalities.
In the second episode, the spotlight shines on some of the younger players trying to make a name for themselves.
Linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez is quickly turning heads in training camp. He's already been given the nickname "Rodrigo" by defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn and it's been sticking ever since the first day of rookie minicamp. The Lions took Rodriguez in the sixth round of this year's draft, but linebackers coach Kelvin Sheppard sees past his draft value. "I got a f-----' rookie that knows how to get the s--- done," Sheppard shouts aloud after seeing Rodriguez make play after play during team drills.
Rodriguez has the personality and energy coaches treasure, and he is willing to do whatever it takes to make himself known. Campbell asks his fellow coaches if they're "buying stock in Rodrigo," so, by all means, the roster hopeful is off to a good start. Rodriguez knows he's got a long way to go, but he's making the most out of every opportunity.
D'Andre Swift is looking to take his skill to the next level. Running backs coach Duce Staley believes Swift, in his third year, has all the makings of a top back in the NFL.
"You can be the best in this league. You really can," Staley says as he directly looks at Swift with five other running backs in the same room. "You gotta have that dog mentality. You gotta bring that s--- outta you."
Swift is in one of the best spots possible -- being coached up by a former NFL running back. He just has to put it all together when game time comes.
The Lions' preseason opener versus the Falcons ends up being a close one. The team is looking to close things out late in the fourth quarter. We see quarterback David Blough fumble a snap that leads to a turnover right after hearing Campbell say he wants to close things out. Pain.
The defense almost comes up with an interception from cornerback Chase Lucas, but it slips through his hands. Another opportunity missed. The Falcons eventually score and the game ends in a cloud of frustration.
Campbell consoles the team at the end of the episode, reminding his players that they're taking a step in the right direction but just need to work out the little things and get a little better each day.
Extra points ...
- The episode started off with Frank Ragnow on a fishing expedition, fielding a ludicrous question: Which is more satisfying, catching a six-pounder or pancaking Aaron Donald? Without hesitation, Ragnow answered the latter. I can't imagine any offensive lineman in the league would have a different reply.
- The Hard Knocks crew did a great job with the episode coming full circle, starting with a two-minute drill at the beginning and ending with a two-minute drill to try to win the game. After the end of the game, I was saying, "Man, they practiced for this!!"
- Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders visited the Lions! It was a trip down memory lane for some, seeing Sanders in a 1997 training camp video. Walking with Lions president and CEO Rod Wood in the present day, Sanders mentioned that the field in camp looks so good that he's tempted to go out and practice. Side note: It was very interesting that they segued from Swift's segment in the episode right into Sanders. Had to really think about that one.
- Amon-Ra St. Brown listed every one of the 16 receivers taken before him in the 2021 NFL Draft, including the colleges they all went to. "The chip on my shoulder that I have right now comes from that day," St. Brown said. He broke the Lions' rookie reception and receiving yards records last season, but there's no lack of motivation heading into his second year. Also, having a two-time Mr. Universe as a father/trainer helps a lot.
- Blough had a tough end to the episode, fumbling away a crucial possession that could have sealed a win in the team's first preseason game. On a positive note, however, we got to see Blough's wife, Olympic hurdler Melissa Gonzalez, and the quarterback share several moments of how the two athletes support each other. Hard Knocks brought back video footage of Blough and his teammates cheering on Gonzalez when she competed in the Tokyo Olympics. Similarly, we saw the facial expressions and reactions of Gonzalez during the preseason opener, displaying what stress looks like for an NFL wife on game day.
- Aidan Hutchinson's first taste of NFL action was amazing. He had several hustle plays while in pursuit of the quarterback and an explosive tackle for loss. Hutchinson's family was in awe of the rookie's game-wrecking ability -- just like the rest of us.
- Campbell has quite the list of nicknames for people. You've got "Rodrigo" for Malcolm Rodriguez, but then there's "Big Smooth, the serpent of f-----' death" for Josh Reynolds and "F-----' Funchess Bunches of Oats" for Devin Funchess. Now those are some fantasy football team names.
- For the Quote of the Week, I'm giving it to Campbell this time. Shocker, I know. The coach walked by tight end T.J. Hockenson, who was sporting the highest-cut shorts I've ever seen a football player wear in practice. "My wife used to have shorts just like them," Campbell said. "Really accentuates the butt cheeks."
- A couple more songs added to the Hard Knocks Spotify playlist !
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