The fourth episode of HBO’s Hard Knocks featuring the Dallas Cowboys came the night of the roster cutdown to 53. It was odd knowing ahead of time how the story would go for so many players, but there were still things to tell.
The early focus was on a familiar face, Azur Kamara, who was clearly fighting through the Texas heat back in Dallas. We also got a dose of defensive line coach Aden Durde’s accent, one not often heard on football fields.
COVID reared its ugly head, forcing the team into virtual meetings once again. John Fassel was very clear about his attitude, saying politely they are “for the birds.” But fortunately the players were able to return to The Star after a day. With Dan Quinn still in the protocol, we got a look at Joe Whitt Jr’s coaching style. It was interesting to see Leighton Vander Esch offering his approval of things.
Another series favorite, Isaac Alarcon, also made an early appearance. Even coming from Mexico, he was feeling the literal heat with the team working under the glaring Dallas sun. The obvious was stated that with cuts looming, this was not the time for players on the bubble to have a bad day.
The cameras then shifted to JaQuan Hardy, another player fighting for a spot. The coaches were all over him about not continuing his runs. They also were riding him about his vision after his rather disturbing incident with a contact lens. He was still behind Rico Dowdle on the depth chart, but Dowdle would turn out to have a hip injury that would send him to IR, and offer a chance for Hardy. Running backs coach Skip Peete told him in no uncertain terms just what he had in front of him. The trademark glimpse into his personality dealt with his love of food, including a mashup of mac ‘n cheese and yams.
Micah Parsons is another lover of southern cuisine, and he had teammates over to his house to have a taste. Then he embarrassed LVE in a game of Connect Four. He’s better at it than chess, it appears.
One thing the series often skimps on is the veterans, but this episode treated us to a bit of the practice rivalry between Amari Cooper and Trevon Diggs, with Dak Prescott egging him on. Coop won this round with a touchdown catch. But his quiet demeanor came out as he offered apologies to Diggs for trash talking him, blaming QB1 for riling him up.
Prescott pitched his variation of cornhole in a meeting, but it was the prelude to what we had waited all camp for, turning him loose for full participation in practice. And. It. Was. Glorious.
Then something unexpected, as Tarell Basham took the mike at a comedy club. Turns out to be a possible post-career path for him. I don’t know if that will go, but he certainly had his teammates in stitches.
Kamara was back center stage, and this time he had his family. It was as always a treat, especially his resplendent mother. They were somewhat disappointed to not find a Kamara jersey at the Cowboys’ pro shop.
A weird moment as Mike McCarthy showed up in street clothes. Then he delivered a sobering reminder that some of the players in the room would not be with the team in just a few days. And Alarcon was teased again about wanting the cake.
That brought us to the final game of the preseason against the Jacksonville Jaguars. As you are no doubt aware, that did not go so well, as the twos for Dallas were matched against the Jacksonville ones. Hardy was fighting to make his case, with Ezekiel Elliott providing sideline commentary and encouragement. Hardy had a big role in the touchdown drive with Garrett Gilbert at quarterback. Then Israel Mukuamu had his big highlight with the interception.
Hardy opened the second half with a tackle on special teams. Alarcon was named a captain for this game, but his play was not what he might have hoped. But he turned up the heat, and started to look much better. Kamara was also having some struggles, as the episode focused on this trio of hopefuls. We already knew the outcome, at least for the initial 53-man roster, but you still found yourself pulling for these men. Even Ben DiNucci generated a little sympathy, although the slo-mo shot of his sidearm delivery presaged his fate.
Now we will have the final episode to cover the pain and exultation for the fringe players as they go through the cutdowns. We’ll be back next week to share it with you.
At the time of this post’s publishing we are LIVE on the Blogging The Boys YouTube Channel breaking down the fourth episode of Hard Knocks. You can always catch the re-watch if you are late or you can listen to our conversation on the Blogging The Boys podcast network. Apple devices can subscribe here and Spotify users can subscribe here.
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