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'Hard Knocks' Episode 3 recap: New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh seeking 'competitors'

In the NFL, being able to relentlessly compete through training camp and set yourself apart from everyone else in the locker room will go a long way when it comes down to final team evaluation.

During the third episode of Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the New York Jets, head coach Robert Saleh takes time in a team meeting to list the four levels of being a competitor: survivor, contender, competitor, commander. While most remain survivors or contenders, Saleh says the level he wants all of his players to reach is "competitor."

"A competitor is someone who is internally motivated to be his best regardless of the situation," Saleh explains. "His place on the depth chart does not matter. Money does not matter. Fame does not matter. He is always trying to absolutely be his best. He can't be swayed because he's already maxing out his potential. This f-----' dude is trying to PR every day of life. He's got a championship mindset."

Heading into his 13th season, wide receiver Randall Cobb knows a thing or two about being able to compete. In the wide receiver huddle, Cobb shares his own experience of building a connection with quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

"If he doesn't trust you, he's not gonna throw you the ball," Cobb says. "I can promise you that."

Trust is key, especially when looking to improve your roster with a big-time free agent.

The Jets ended up acquiring Dalvin Cook, a talented addition to the running back room and someone the team is trusting to elevate everyone playing around him. Cook enters training camp and introduces himself to each of the new faces he sees. Rodgers, though, is not a new face for Cook -- the two have battled each other for six years in the chill-winded and stored Packers-Vikings rivalry in the NFC North. A brief moment shows veterans Rodgers and Cook gazing out at the training camp drills taking place. (If someone said five years ago that Rodgers and Cook would wind up playing together, that person would have been seen as a lunatic. But that's the crazy reality of the NFL world.)

The camera crew of Hard Knocks puts in great effort to capture the drama and physicality of the joint practice between the Jets and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Capturing full brawls and scuffles between the two teams is not only good for entertainment purposes -- it shows the level of competition being brought to the table. Plus, if there's a time to get frustration and anger out, better to do so during the preseason rather than in a regular-season game.

Saleh prepares for another preseason game day by running "stadiums" for what he reveals later in the episode to be an entire hour(!). Hustling up and down the stairs of the stadium, Saleh's words spoken to his team about competition match his own actions of competing with himself, not only in a physical manner but also to challenge himself mentally to be the best coach he can be.

The Jets still have a long way to go, ending their third preseason game on the short side of a 13-6 outcome vs. the Bucs. There's plenty of competition left to be had. An upcoming preseason finale with playing time for starters -- including Rodgers -- might fuel players on the bubble to rise to the occasion and become the "competitors" their coach demands.

Extra points ...

  • Man, if I had a dollar for every time I heard the word "compete" or "competition" in this week's episode, I'd be rich enough to never compete in anything again. I actually loved Saleh's onus on being a "competitor" during this week's Hard Knocks intro. I get the sense players really buy into what Saleh preaches to them. It might come through PowerPoint, but the central message of competition is conveyed to and received by all of his players.
  • We finally get to see a little bit of love for the running back room. Dalvin Cook enters camp before leaving abruptly for the birth of his child. Breece Hall, a name that hasn't been showcased in a minute, is back from injury -- and looking fast as ever! The road to recovery isn't an easy one, with Hall coming off a season-ending ACL tear, but the second-year pro looks great. Brooklyn native and fifth-round pick Israel Abanikanda gets some screen time, showing much improvement throughout camp, but unfortunately gets injured during the team's loss to Tampa Bay. To much relief, the injury is not as bad as it first appeared -- important news for someone fighting for a roster spot.
  • As narrator Liev Schreiber mentions, Jets owner Woody Johnson has spent a good deal of money on new players this offseason, but that's not the only thing he's dropped a bag on. In comes Johnson to a team meeting sporting a massive, iced-out chain reading his name, "Woody Johnson." Sauce Gardner must've pointed him to the right jeweler. Perhaps the chain is a symbol of Johnson's team -- going all out to make something look nice. Or maybe it's just a nice chain. I'll let you decide.
  • The rookies get a much-needed do-over after last week's failed attempt at a rookie show. A couple of rookies end up singing, but undrafted wide receiver Jerome Kapp steals the show by reciting a fully memorized reenactment of Eminem's final freestyle battle vs. Papa Doc in the movie 8 Mile. Just when you think he lost a step, Kapp keeps spitting out the lyrics and gets the entire team hyped up. What a rebound from the multiple-choice conundrum in last Tuesday's episode.
  • As much as the training camp fights and competition are shown in this week's episode, there is an equal amount of family time on display. Cobb's family shares that Rodgers is known as "Uncle Aaron'' to the kids and is the godfather to Cade (one of Cobb's sons). In a surprise moment, Cobb tells his two boys that a third child will be coming soon to the "Cobb Mob." Congratulations Aiyda and the Cobb family!
  • Hard Knocks has set high expectations for Garrett Wilson to fill in and become the go-to guy for Rodgers. During Wilson's highlighted segment, I can just sense fantasy football players everywhere salivating. There is mention of Wilson being what Davante Adams was for Rodgers, but let's pump the brakes. Before any comparison is made, I'd like to see what Wilson and Rodgers create on the field with their own connection.
  • Who else is enjoying seeing Zach Wilson have more fun playing football each week? Wilson is turning over a new leaf, but that doesn't mean he's giving up old habits. Wilson explains the reasoning for wearing his signature headband is because he has a problem with sweat getting in his eyes. I'd say that's a valid reason. But when giving a reason on why he decides to wear his hand towel off the back right side of his belt, Wilson just says, "I'm a right ass guy." I just can't defend you there, Zach. You're on your own.
  • The original Karate Kid, Ralph Macchio, closes the episode by talking to the team after practice. He offers up wisdom from an old sensei of his. "To succeed in life in all aspects," Macchio says, "you need to find balance." He may have paraphrased a bit, but the Jets do look like a balanced team right now.
  • Another week means more additions to the Hard Knocks Spotify playlist!

Follow Brendan Walker on Twitter.

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