It seems Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Detroit Lions is starting a tradition that will haunt every penultimate episode to come.
Since 2021, teams have been tasked with making their final 53-man roster cuts on the Tuesday following the last preseason game. Since the preseason has been reduced to three games, the news cycle throughout deadline day is filled with spoilers just a few hours before the episode is released.
The Lions' last preseason game was the final test for players on the bubble, and Hard Knocks chose to devote an equal amount of screen time to a couple of compelling story arcs from the last few weeks.
Offensive tackle Obinna Eze tells a joke that sparks a laugh from his fellow offensive linemen, while wide receiver Kalil Pimpleton is enthusiastic about getting a private class with a juggling coach. Both segments are dedicated to showing the amicable sides of Eze and Pimpleton that make us want to root for them more. But after getting lost in all the fun, the realization surely sets in for some watching that Eze and Pimpleton were cut on Tuesday -- though the show won't be able to chronicle that until next week's season finale.
Not all players will suffer the dreadful fate of being cut. Malcolm Rodriguez gets the start in the Lions' last preseason game in Pittsburgh during this episode, cementing his place on the initial 53-man roster. Rodriguez has risen up to the challenge and shined through this entire Hard Knocks drama.
Running back Craig Reynolds is looking to make the Detroit roster for a second season in a row after spending his first two years in Washington and Jacksonville. Reynolds gets a large amount of praise from everyone in this episode, including the coaches when Dan Campbell asks them for their thoughts on the former undrafted free agent. None of them are slow to respond.
"I wouldn't cut him," offensive assistant John Morton says. "He's everything we represent."
"They just love Reynolds," offensive line coach Hank Fraley follows up with. "Like protection. All that stuff. They love him."
Assistant head coach/running backs coach Duce Staley gives the final lasting remark: "You get rid of Craig if you want to, now, you might have some linemen come and knock on the door just to talk."
The coaches believe in him and his teammates want him. It would have been heartbreaking (and definitely awkward) to hear bad news after all this reassurance coming from the team. However, that was never the case, as we learned earlier in the day that Reynolds secured a spot on the roster.
Extra points ...
- Since beginning this Hard Knocks journey, I knew this day was coming. As much as I would have liked to book an internet-free day away in a cabin somewhere, there was no realistic chance of escaping all the roster-cut notifications. The work is football and, in turn, football is life.
- Campbell surprised the team with a player-run practice before the final preseason game. The cameras can't catch everything, but from what was shown, the players gave themselves little to no downtime. Very impressive.
- General manager Brad Holmes used an analogy to compare talent evaluation to a form of art. "All of our evaluators -- they are artists and their artwork is on display," Holmes said. "I've always said the beauty of scouting is you have to encourage independent thought and you gotta encourage the artistry of evaluation."
- Quarterback Jared Goff is participating in his third Hard Knocks heading into his seventh NFL season. I can understand why we didn't really see much of him up until Episode 4, but it was still nice to observe a bit of his personal side as he approved one of his clothing-line ideas: a logo with the "Detroit" merged between the city's skyline.
- Not Pimpleton! The juggler had many fans rooting for him to make the team. And to make things worse, the episode had an entire segment dedicated to his passion for juggling. The juggling coach asks him why the hobby appeals to him and he answers, "Since I'm a football player, hand-eye coordination, you know, so that when I'm going in for a catch it helps me focus on the ball." Foreshadowing is terrible when you already know what happens. The speedy receiver had a couple great catch-and-runs, but dropping a would-be touchdown during the Lions' final preseason game almost certainly sealed his fate of not making the roster.
- I'm here for quarterback David Blough's story arc. After a rough start to the preseason when he fumbled away the first game, Blough comes full circle and shows up in the last preseason game. Being substituted in early -- off-script due to Tim Boyle's poor start -- Blough took over the offense and began making plays left and right. Blough just wanted the backup job more. (EDITOR'S NOTE: The Lions are waiving Blough, NFL Network Insider Tom Pelissero reported Wednesday morning, hours after Tuesday's Hard Knocks episode aired.)
- Campbell comes through with the "Quote of the Week" this time: "I had three what the f---- and two bull----- in the first drive alone. I don't know what he was doing. It was b-------, man." I bet you can take a guess as to whom Campbell is referring to.
- A few more additions to the Hard Knocks Spotify playlist!
NFL+ gives you the freedom to watch LIVE out-of-market preseason games, LIVE local and prime-time regular-season and postseason games on your phone or tablet, the best NFL programming on-demand and more! Wherever you are, this is how you football! Learn more about NFL+.