This week's episode of Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Detroit Lions chronicles the team's effort to bounce back from a brutal loss in the preseason opener.
What's done is done -- it's on to the next one. The team needs to shake it off.
Dan Campbell starts the episode off by shaking out a pair of practice pants filled with chalk dust. It really wouldn't be a Hard Knocks episode this year without a wild Campbell meeting room metaphor. Even if it is considered a bit outside the box, everything Campbell does has the intention of sending a message to his players. "If we really want to go where we want to go, we gotta get all the rest of this f------ s--- out of our stuff, man," Campbell says as he shakes out the dust. "This last bit of losing has gotta get outta here."
Another opportunity arises for players trying to make the final 53-man roster, as the team flies to Indianapolis for a joint practice and preseason game with the Colts. It's a new environment, but the Lions' identity hasn't changed. Having grit is something players need to maintain, especially for those who are trying to make the next cut.
Running back Craig Reynolds is someone looking for that third-back role behind D'Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams. Through his battle to make the roster, Reynolds maintains a great connection with his brother, Eric, whom he contacts each week before a game. In a video call that starts off with the two brothers joking around, Eric gets personal and reminds Craig to keep striving toward the next goal and not waste the opportunity given to him.
"Your brother is 30-something years old and over 10 of that he did in prison," Eric says. "I'm glad that you stopped smiling because I'm dead serious. I've made enough mistakes for you, for me and for a thousand and one other people, bro. So at this point in time, Craig, you need to continue moving forward, bro. ... You're doing a helluva job."
Moving forward is exactly what Reynolds plans to do as he gets the start in the team's second preseason game. This time around, the Lions have a much more established presence and they've learned from their mistakes.
Quarterback David Blough redeems himself from last week, finishing the first half with a scoring drive (and no costly fumble). Well done, Blough. The Lions eventually hold a seven-point lead after an 18-play TD drive and have commanded the game well. However, in the final minutes, the Colts score and -- in very appropriate Frank Reich fashion -- they decide to go for the two-point conversion to win the game. The Lions' defense gets one last chance for a stop and, with enough pressure generated, Detroit flushes Jack Coan out of the pocket. Coan throws off his back foot and hits … nobody! The Lions win their first preseason game and boy does this one feel good. A fired-up Campbell victory speech is in order.
"That's how winning teams are made," Campbell exclaims. "We got better this week. … That's what it's supposed to taste like and feel like. It's good s---, man. We're going up. We're going places. Stay true to who we are and what we're about, and if you guys do that, good things are gonna happen to us."
What an adrenaline rush. Here's to the Lions' next win, so I can hear that all over again.
Extra points ...
- OK, let me start off by saying Campbell deserves an award for these metaphoric displays he's now decided to put on. I'm not sure he's going to ever run out of ideas for how to get his points across to his players, but first it was sea monsters and now dust-filled pants? To be fair, I'd listen to anything Campbell has to say at this point, but since I'm a visual learner, it was hilarious seeing the front row of players in the meeting room having to go through sitting in a cloud of dust while Campbell was trying to prove his point.
- Nigerian-born offensive tackle Obinna Eze was reminded of a hard truth: When it comes to improvement, you can't cheat yourself. Another player on the bubble, Eze is still looking to find a way to make the team and hasn't given up. Having come to America just seven years ago, he's raw but driven -- an easy guy to root for. Stay tuned.
- Undrafted wide receiver Kalil Pimpleton showed off his juggling skills, which started a little rocky when he dropped a ball in his first attempt. In his second attempt, however, he kept adding new spins and tricks little by little before eventually concluding his performance. As I was watching, I couldn't help but see a comparison from Pimpleton's act to the Lions' preseason so far: a tough start, a stirring revival and eventually a strong finish.
- We know running back Jamaal Williams is liked among many for his friendly personality, but boy, he does not shy away from the trash talk, especially during joint practice. In one practice segment, Williams was shouting at Colts defenders after every single play he made (or didn't make). Meanwhile, assistant head coach Duce Staley was the one who ended up losing his voice while watching all of this unfold. Oh, the painful irony.
- Detroit comedian Josh Adams came to camp for a quick stand-up segment, which could pretty much be summed up as a roasting of the players. Adams called linebacker Alex Anzalone "Thor," while Campbell got the Hulk Hogan treatment. But Aidan Hutchinson got the shortest end of the stick, as Adams said he "looks like a big a-- boy-band member" and "Justin Timberlake coming off the edge." A little comedic relief in the middle of a joint practice never hurt anyone.
- I appreciate the continued transparency Lions coaches have with their players. Kelvin Sheppard made the decision to sideline Anzalone in Week 2 of the preseason because he's quite likely to make the team. Consequently, Sheppard named Derrick Barnes the MLB starter and gave Malcolm Rodriguez a starting opportunity as the Will. The linebacker room looks to be mostly up for grabs at this point in training camp. Even if Rodriguez doesn't end up as the actual starter in Week 1, I think it's fair to say that a majority of viewers, including myself, are rooting for him to make the team come final roster cuts.
- There needs to be talk about this week's unsung hero: wide receiver Tom Kennedy. No interview, no focus and no screen time other than his two touchdown highlights, which accounted for just under half of the team's scoring in the second preseason game. There aren't a lot of wide receiver spots available on this roster, so I get it, but I want to give credit where credit is due. Kennedy has been a consistent playmaker throughout the Lions preseason.
- Defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn had a genuine, can't-miss moment with Hutchinson at the start of one of the joint practices. "I'll tell you what, dude. Everything I thought about you, man … it's good to know it's real," Glenn said as he put his hand on Hutchinson's shoulder. "You know what I'm saying? It's good to know it's real, brotha." Glenn shared that sometimes players don't always show their true selves, which is why he appreciates that Hutchinson is the complete opposite and isn't afraid of being himself.
- My "Quote of the Week" almost went to Staley, but is instead going to Campbell as a part of his postgame victory speech. "It doesn't matter if it's freaking dominoes, it's spades, it's Bourré, it's croquet, it's f------ chess, it's preseason, a-- kicking. It does not matter, man. Winning is winning."
- A few more additions to our Hard Knocks Spotify playlist this week, including not one but two hits from Big Sean. Yes, I am a Big Sean listener, and yes, I was disappointed that "Bounce Back" was not used, as it would have tied in perfectly with the theme of this week. I won't do it, but I'm very tempted to include it in the playlist.
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