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The New York Jets need a better start to their 2023 season than Hard Knocks offered in its debut episode Tuesday night.
The Jets and the award winning HBO series are sharing high expectations this summer because one is the talk of the NFL and the other is the league’s lens and microphone for captivating entertainment in the preseason.
But this is where we all should agree the Jets must aim higher than what Hard Knock delivered Tuesday night on HBO because, well, that was unsatisfying.
Hard Knocks Typically Outstanding
No, I’m not going go all nerd movie critic on Hard Knocks here. The show is typically a standard for great camera work, outstanding story-telling, and a feeding frenzy of insight and behind-the-scenes information.
But this first episode was kind of tame. It delivered no eyebrow raising moment. No surprises. And hardly any insight.
Oh, the Jets fans probably loved it. And the players will love it because they got on national television with their helmets off and not one criticism was heard.
But for a show with unprecedented access to the league’s most interesting team right now, this episode felt like a Zach Wilson 2022 pass:
No Mention Of Dalvin Cook Or Rodgers Pay Cut
Where was the inside stuff on the Dalvin Cook visit? You know, like when the free agent running back met with owner Woody Johnson and general manager Joe Douglas and had free run of the Jets’ Florham Park facility?
Where was the inside stuff on the Aaron Rodgers pay cut? The decision by the quarterback to give back $35 million a few weeks ago has given the Jets the ability to chase more talent for years to come. But not one scene explained the move or showed us its genesis.
We instead got a lot of content about the Jets first preseason game against the Cleveland Browns at the Hall of Fame Game. A lot of Rodgers banter on the headset and even the moment where he suggested a pass to Malik Taylor.
(He didn’t actually call the play).
Aaron Rodgers Wore Headset!!!!!
But we got no mention of Mekhi Becton. He’s New York’s 2020 first-round pick who boasts a world of talent but hasn’t been able to stay on the field consistently enough to show it. In this game, Jets coaches put him in on special teams as well as at offensive tackle.
Imagine a first round pick playing special teams in the preseason?
Well, Becton took himself out of the game because he was feeling uncomfortable with the turf and fearful how his body might react. But he stayed in for special teams.
So an injury-prone player the Jets need in the lineup takes himself out of lineup because he’s afraid of getting hurt and not one mention on Hard Knocks.
We didn’t get any of that in a show meant to take us on a 52-minute journey from the start of Jets training camp to last week’s preseason opener.
What we did get was a whole lot of Rodgers.
Aaron Rodgers is really good, this episode took pains to explain. Breaking!
Lots Of Aaron Rodgers Content
We saw Jets players at the start of camp telling Rodgers he is great. We saw New York coach Robert Saleh appreciating he has a chance to win in his third NFL season because he has Rodgers.
“Everyone’s chasing the top-tier quarterbacks because they change games,” Saleh tells the camera. “They change entire locker rooms.”
So cut to the scenes of Rodgers making great throws at practice.
Cut to Rodgers completing a lot of no-look passes in practice.
And watch Rodgers even freak out his own defense.
“This is across the (bleeping) field on the back shoulder,” Jets defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich tells his players during a post-practice tape session that shows a Rodgers TD pass. “I don’t care, but there’s not any other human on Earth that can make that (bleeping) throw.
“He’s our quarterback. He’s ours. Ours.”
The first episode showed how Rodgers has sort of adopted Zach Wilson, helping the former starter he is replacing. It showed how Rodgers is going to help receiver Garrett Wilson. It showed how Rodgers and cornerback Sauce Gardner have forged a relationship.
And it showed how Gardner and Wilson, Rookies of the Year on offense and defense last year, are making each other better in camp. Again, kind of predictable stuff.
Hard Knocks Top 10 Moments
Hard Knocks has in the past set such a high standard for entertainment and insight that there’s an actual Hard Knocks Top 10 moments out there. Google it!
Antonio Brown driving the Raiders crazy in 2019.
Vontae Davis getting traded from the Dolphins to the Colts in 2012 and immediately asking his general manager to be excused so he can go speak with his grandmother.
Rex Ryan’s speech to the team in 2010 after which he barked, “Let’s go eat a (expletive) snack!”
This premiere episode of 2023 Hard Knocks didn’t offer any such gold. It had one signature moment and that was the opening scene in which Saleh, in what looks like the first meeting of training camp, tells his players about crows and eagles.
He explains how crows attack eagles and peck at their necks and eagles respond by flying higher so as to go where crows cannot breathe or fly. The smaller birds fall to earth and die. The coach then makes an analogy about how haters will peck at the Jets and they must respond by flying higher this season.
That was good stuff.
Here’s hoping the rest of this year’s Hard Knocks episodes can similarly climb to greater heights than the episode on Tuesday night.