The Atlanta Falcons are the stars of this year's HBO show "Hard Knocks." The Atlanta Falcons are trying to rebuild their image into that of a tough, competent, playoff-capable team. HBO also features a show with flying dragons. It's up to you to decide how those three sentences fit together.
• Hope you weren't eating tacos when this episode started, because we begin inside Marquis Spruill's leg. He's getting reconstructive surgery done, and it's delicious. Combine this with Sam Baker's injury at the end of the episode, and you're looking at the actual human cost of football. This is where "Hard Knocks" stands head-and-shoulderpads above any other reality show; this is both true pain and these guys' livelihoods. There's no life off the island to go back to; the football field IS the island.
• We've settled into the groove of "Hard Knocks" now. The players and coaches are accustomed to the cameras, and we're starting to see which individuals are the most worthy of our attention. Top of the list: D-line coach Bryan Cox, who was an absolute lunatic in a Dolphins uniform and is only marginally more restrained with a clipboard. In the most quotable scene of the episode, Cox explains the age differential between his daughter (age 30) and himself (46) thusly: "I told y'all I started [interpersonal relations] when I was 10." (Related tip: do not ever, under any circumstances, Instagram-friend the daughter of your possibly insane coach, as one rookie did this week.)
• Last week featured Coach Mike Smith trying out some profanity; this week we had quarterback Matt Ryan having a go at throwing some f-bombs around. And while people like Cox can manipulate the f-word like a pitcher throwing fastballs, with complete control and authority, in the hands of a nice guy like Ryan it's like a little kid lifting a huge bag of dog food. He can handle it, barely, but man, is it awkward to watch. Ryan also trots out a Dad joke involving old men and pussy willows. We like Ryan an awful lot, but it's not because of his hard-edged street cred.
• There's some fun as the receivers go bowling, and we see that Harry Douglas apparently favors a bounce pass when bowling. Also, Roddy White cannot catch a dropped dollar bill. This seems like an ominous omen heading into the season.
• Houston's J.J. Watt enters the show like a Greek god and immediately shows Jake Matthews that the NFL is even tougher and more impossible than you'd believe. Matthews is a 6'5", 300-pound monster, and yet Watt has no trouble throwing him around. Matthews may one day be a top-flight NFL player, but he's going to have to crawl through a river of filth to get to that point.
• Watt's appearance precedes the Falcons' preseason game against the Texans, in which we get to see how our favorite reality-show players perform as football players. The answer? Not so great. Worst of all is poor backup QB TJ Yates, who completes some sweet passes to Houston. Problem is, he doesn't play for Houston anymore. Yates may have just thrown himself out of a job, and he knows it.
• We'll close with William Moore's freestylin'. Ladies and gentlemen, "Strong Safety."
See you next week.