Skip to main content

'Hard Knocks' Episode 4 recap: 'Don't poke' New York Jets' new QB1

There was a small amount of hope that this year's Hard Knocks would deviate from the information spoil from last year, but alas, it seems as though the tradition has been set in stone.

A three-game preseason means news of final roster cuts breaks just hours before the show's airtime, but the cuts won't be revealed on Hard Knocks until the season finale -- a week later. Even though this is now the case, Hard Knocks still does a phenomenal job sharing the stories of players looking to make the most of their few opportunities left in camp.

In Episode 4, the New York Jets are preparing for their final preseason game -- the ultimate test and last chance some players will get at making the team's initial 53-man roster. From jerseys getting stitched to meals being prepared to equipment getting triple-checked, everything involved in the team's success lies in the details and is shown in the open.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers relies on knowing every football detail in order to perfect his craft. A not-so-hot start to practice for the offense sends Rodgers into a slew of F-bombs (seven by my count) within a span of 30 seconds. As a top quarterback in the NFL, there's no time to waste.

Like a professor instructing his students, Rodgers communicates with his offense what needs to be learned and corrected. The offense, soon after his lecture, gets back on track.

Defensive line coach Aaron Whitecotton rallies his group in the meeting room to continue a tradition built on commitment to one another. Each player receives a carabiner with his name stickered on it and takes a turn saying aloud, "I will not be the weakest link," to the rest of his teammates. The carabiners get latched on to each other as the growing, unbreakable chain gets passed along -- a true bonding moment for one of the most talented defensive lines in football today.

Meanwhile, undrafted free-agent wide receiver Jerome Kapp is welcomed back from his shining moment in Episode 3 when he performed Eminem's battle rap from 8 Mile, this time under a different spotlight. Kapp shares that he went practically viral overnight with the amount of eyes on his rookie talent show performance. But that isn't what he wants; proving he can be a receiver in the NFL is his main goal.

"[Kapp's] in that meeting room more than I am," wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni says. "He wants this so bad."

Unfortunately, Kapp's dream fell short, as he was among the Jets' cuts on Tuesday and did not secure a spot on the team's 53-man roster.

Different story for the team's biggest offseason addition. Taking part in his first preseason action since 2018(!), Rodgers is welcomed by a roaring crowd.

During the game, Giants linebacker Jihad Ward shoves Rodgers late after a thrown ball, and the two get chippy.

"Don't poke the bear," Rodgers says to Ward after he connects with wide receiver Garrett Wilson for a touchdown. (Ward, you really shouldn't have poked the bear.)

Jason Brownlee and Xavier Gipson, two undrafted rookie wide receiver with whom we only got a brief moment earlier in the show, impress their coaches and complement each other well -- so much so that they made the final roster (which we don't see on the show, at least not yet).

Defensive lineman Tanzel Smart, who has been fighting all camp, undergoes an X-ray after feeling pain in his left shoulder during the game. Smart rushes back out to the field, knowing he cannot miss an opportunity, and makes a few good plays in his return with one arm, but ultimately comes up short. Smart faces the revolving NFL door once again, as he was cut from the team Tuesday.

Cheers from the crowd ensue as the team ends its preseason with a 32-24 win over the Giants. While some players have proven themselves and made their dreams of being on an NFL roster come true, others will have to wait for the next opportunity to come their way.

Extra points ...

  • There's no way to escape the awkwardness of Hard Knocks and roster cuts happening on the same day, is there? Watching and hearing players on the bubble talk about their families and the dream of making an NFL roster while knowing they've been cut a few hours before airtime is such a buzzkill.
  • Defensive lineman Solomon Thomas doesn't get as much credit as he deserves. As effective of a player as he is on the field, his off-field vibe is such a treat. Remember all the way back in the beginning when he quickly corrected Tanzel Smart for his mispronunciation of a charcuterie board? Well, now Thomas is creating one for the entire defensive line to consume, making edible flower decor with salami (???). What can I say? The man is just talented all around.
  • In a brief moment with the offense in the auditorium, offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett emphasizes the importance of the red zone and celebrating with teammates after scoring. "It's about celebrating together," Hackett shouts to the room. "It takes all of us. We have to be great, and when you cross that 20(-yard line), you gotta feel that."
  • Wide receiver Randall Cobb makes a blind-side block downfield during the preseason game and immediately gets a flag thrown his way. Cobb's wife, Aiyda, sits in the stands with the rest of the family and notices the flag. "He'll probably get a fine in the mail here soon," Aiyda says without an ounce of concern in her facial expression. From her reaction, you can tell this likely isn't the Cobb family's first rodeo on penalty fines getting sent home.
  • As the episode closes, tight end C.J. Uzomah, Aaron Rodgers and Thomas rave about a Broadway show I was completely unaware of. Back to the Future: The Musical is apparently a highly regarded production, at least according to the players. "It is a must-watch," Rodgers says. Uzomah passionately shares his own review. "That s--- was incredible," he exclaims. "(It) was f-----' nuts." I think "Broadway Show Reviews with the New York Jets" would be must-watch content.
  • I'm not sure if it's just because they're camera shy or because they are purposely avoiding the Hard Knocks crew, but we've barely heard a peep from the offensive linemen since the group was called out earlier in this series. Let's just hope those guys got the wake-up call they needed and are silently improving in the shadows.
  • A few more additions to the Hard Knocks Spotify playlist!

Follow Brendan Walker on Twitter.

Related Content