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Hard Knocks episode 3 recap: Gilbert’s and DiNucci’s fall, Rush’s rise

Despite the breaks for levity, there were some really rough moments in this one.

Houston Texans v Dallas Cowboys
The fall of Ben DiNucci was the hardest part of this episode.
Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Episode of the Dallas Cowboys on HBOs’ Hard Knocks is in the books. Here is a rundown of what happened.

Isaac Alarcon was the early focus of this episode. It was a look into the struggles of a young player trying to adjust to the game and not having the success he wants. For him, it is a tougher haul than most as a product of the International Pathways program, with much less experience in the game than most players that into the league. His storyline would be woven in and out of the episode. One thing related was Joe Philbin, offense line coach, working to try and get him up to NFL standards.

HIs family was shown, glowing with pride over Alarcon being able to wear the Mexican flag on his helmet. He spoke of how impossible the dream seemed of ever making it to the NFL. Like many of his countrymen, he is a longtime Cowboys fan who still seems starstruck to be in the locker room with his heroes.

Another of the featured stars of the game was not a person at all, but The Star at Frisco. A long tracking drone shot took us inside the glitzy, spectacular facility the Jerry Jones brought into existence on the plains of North Texas. And it featured the owner himself basking in the praise of fans. A bittersweet retrospective touched on the quick rise to glory and the long, dry spell since the early 90s.

When with his family, Alarcon spoke of his brother’s effect on him. The show also took a look at the relationship between Trevon Diggs and his brother, wide receiver Stefon Diggs of the Buffalo Bills.

Amari Cooper got his time in the spotlight. This episode covered his return to the field during his recovery from his own injury. After having to move inside due to lightning in the area, he finally got into practice. Many have been discussing whether CeeDee Lamb is the new WR1 for Dallas, but his route running was right there. And Lamb came to him for some work on his own routes at the hands of the master. The two do have very different personal sides, as Cooper is quiet and understated, while Lamb got into some trash talk with emerging star Micah Parsons. Then it was Parsons’ turn as he was coached up in the linebacker room.

A much less well covered rookie is JaQuan Hardy. It turns out he has very poor vision and lost a contact during the Arizona Cardinals game. Like most players, he didn’t want to come out, but he got dressed down for hurting his team by staying on the field when he was hampered by his vision. As with almost everything about football, he took a lot of grief from his teammates as he struggled to get a fresh lens in his eye. He elected to go back to Rec Specs to try and circumvent things. He is not likely to make the 53-man roster, but a chance at the practice squad is a way to keep his personal dream alive. He struggled some with pass catching, but seemed to settle down and get back in the coaches’ good graces.

His segment also showed that it is not jut Cooper that is passing on things to younger players. Ezekiel Elliott also took some time with Hardy to help him. And then he was doing Zeke things on the field. This man looks ready to eat again this year, and not just the snacks he always seems to be wolfing down.

As it has all camp, Dak Prescott’s health was a point of emphasis. The decision to keep him out of the Houston Texans game was of course included. We also found out he doesn’t like mascots.

The episode gave us a look at one of the men who work behind the scenes, in this case Johnathon Jackson, who’s family has been working with the team for decades. He handles the fan mail, among other things, but his real talent is playing Spades, the quintessential Texas card game. He and Parsons paired up against Dak and Zeke, and the superstars on the field got their comeuppance at the table.

That brought us to the Texans game. With a guest appearance from the JerryCopter, it was time to look at how the players would perform. For the starters, it was a chance to get game experience, and the down-roster players would get another chance to make their case to stick with the team.

The rapid downfall of Garrett Gilbert led to the equally rapid ascent of Cooper Rush in the battle for QB2, or at least to prove to the team that they don’t need to go outside the building to backup Prescott. And with Rush’s performance, Cooper and Lamb got some time to work. While neither would get to score, they got the blood flowing and got some needed action. We also were treated to a great view of just how good the touchdown throw to Cedrick Wilson was.

Gilbert’s fall was nothing compared to the second half meltdown of Ben DiNucci. The documenting of his three interceptions was brutal. The staff, including his sponsor, Mike McCarthy, tried to get him straight, but to no avail. It was hard to watch a person fail in his biggest moment, but clearly illustrates the decision the Cowboys are faced with him.

We also got to see Hardy struggle, as his motion penalty cost DiNucci his best play of the game. He did get good plays later, so his situation remains uncertain. Azur Kamara, who got a lot of time in an earlier episode, also was having a hard time, but DeMarcus Lawrence became the third veteran to step in and offer some one on one coaching. It seemed to settle Kamara down.

Alarcon returned to the focus, and started leveling people, much to the delight of his family in the stands.

But this one was most impactful telling about those who fall.


At the time of this publishing we are LIVE on the Blogging The Boys YouTube Channel discussing Episode 3 of Hard Knocks. You can always re-watch if if you are a late arrival or listen to it on the Blogging The Boys podcast network (Apple devices subscribe right here and Spotify users subscribe right here)

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