Season 18 of HBO’s Hard Knocks wrapped up on Tuesday night, and the finale featured Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell working his way through the team’s final roster cuts. We saw players get released and find new homes, the behind-the-scenes conversations that led to those transactions, and, of course, a visit from Detroit’s own Eminem.
Hard Knocks Episode 5 recap: Dan Campbell handles final cutdowns
Campbell is a unique specimen among NFL head coaches, so it’s fitting that he controlled roster cuts in his own fashion. The second-year HC and longtime NFL tight end made it clear that’s he aware of how difficult the training camp grind is on players, and he showed that empathy during exit meetings.
“There ain’t nothing else you could do,” Campbell told wide receiver Tom Kennedy, who didn’t make the roster. “You did everything you could f—— do. You put it on tape, and it’s all out there. And you know, we gotta go another way. I hate it. ‘Cause you earned it. You f—— earned it.”
We watched quarterback Tim Boyle, tight end Devin Funchess, offensive lineman Dan Skipper, defensive lineman Bruce Hector, linebacker Jarrad Davis, and Kennedy get cut, and Campbell was open about how each player contributed during the summer.
Campbell solicited advice on Detroit’s running back battle from defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn, a sign that Campbell trusts Glenn, a probable future head coach, to evaluate players on either side of the ball — even if he doesn’t follow the DC’s advice.
“This is just me, but I wouldn’t want to lose that player,” Glenn said of running back Godwin Igwebuike, who ultimately ceded the Lions’ No. 3 RB job to Craig Reynolds. Campbell admitted that Reynolds has “athletic deficiencies” that show up on tape from time to time, but Detroit’s staff clearly loves the 26-year Kutztown alum.
Meanwhile, David Blough may have thought he won the Lions’ backup quarterback battle, but free agent signee Nate Sudfeld, who showed up to the team meeting (surprising Campbell) following a red-eye flight, took over as Jared Goff’s No. 2. Detroit wanted to keep Blough on their practice squad, but the signal-caller signed with the division rival Vikings’ PS instead.
“It’s like the worst. Like that’s the absolute worst that could have happened,” Campbell said of Blough landing in Minnesota. “…I think he feels like this is a dead-end street here. Where, there, he may still have a chance to compete as the No. 2 eventually.”
Rookie CB Chase Lucas shines on screen
The Lions kept six cornerbacks on their final roster, including rookie seventh-rounder Chase Lucas, who stole the show on Tuesday night.
“There’s something about this Chase Lucas,” Glenn said in a defensive staff meeting. “There’s something about him. He loves football. I like that trait about him. He doesn’t care if he plays one play or he plays 10 plays — he’s gonna play.”
Lucas, who earned two second-team All-Pac-12 nods over five seasons at Arizona State, was direct about his NFL future with defensive backs coach Aubrey Pleasant.
“Coach, can I ask you again, one thing? I can start in this league?” Lucas asked.
“Yeah, you wouldn’t be here if you couldn’t,” Pleasant replied. “Not yet. Not yet. [But] you definitely very much can.”
Eminem visits Lions practice
Detroit native Eminem was on hand for Lions practice, and players and coaches alike were starstruck. Campbell told Eminem that no one represents the city of Detroit better than him, and Lions lined up for pictures.
“He might be on my list of like, holy s—,” Goff said.
Eminem, who toured the Lions facility (“Ain’t this the room where I saw Aidan doing the Billie Jean s—?”), told the Detroit roster that they had a good team, and he also mentioned that he’d been hoping the Lions would be featured on Hard Knocks.
“You know what’s crazy,” Eminem said. “You know when you’re just playing catch with someone in the street or whatever, then you get on a real field, and you f—— throw that b—- as far as you can, and it’s like 10 yards.”
Quick hits from Hard Knocks Episode 5
- Campell on the cutdown process: “If it doesn’t hurt, it’s time to get out of this business.”
- Lions president Rod Wood told Campbell that sixth-round rookie linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez was the team’s second-highest requested jersey, trailing only first-round pick Aidan Hutchinson. “That tells you who our fans are,” Campbell said. “They’re not into the flash.”
- Viewers got to see wide receiver Kalil Pimpleton, who dazzled viewers with his juggling skills in a prior episode, try out for and earn a spot on the Giants’ practice squad.
- Campbell was asked to finish a sentence to close tonight’s finale: “The 2022 Lions will…” After taking a long time to think the question over, Campbell said, “The 2022 Detroit Lions will be the team that can, and will.”