There is no better team than the Cowboys to be the newest NFL theme from HBO’s “Hard Knocks”. The training camp docu series is enjoying its 16th season in 2021 and wherever Dallas is there is always drama.
No team has appeared three times on “Hard Knocks”, the Cowboys, which were also featured in the 2002 and ’08 editions. A lot has changed for the franchise in the 13 years since it last appeared, but there’s no question that Jerry Jones’ team remains America’s most polarizing team.
As long as Quincy Carter and Emmitt Smith. Goodbye Pacman Jones and Felix Jones. The new stars from Oxnard to “The Star” are now led by Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott.
In case you miss any of the five episodes of the new season on HBO or HBO Max, here’s a recap of each episode, including the teaser trailers.
MORE: As seen streaming “Hard Knocks” with the Cowboys
Hard blows Episode 1
The show wasted no time looking back on Cowboys fans’ worst nightmare in 2020 – Prescott suffered his scary ankle injury at the end of the season against the Giants. The quarterback shares his surgical scars and relives the painful emotions. Then we see him step back onto the practice field and declare that his season of adversity would be replaced with a season of triumph – just in time to roll the opening credits.
Prescott dances with Elliott at camp in Oxnard, now full of cowboy fans in Southern California. Jones himself gets emotional when he thinks about how difficult it has been to get back to that point over the past year. The action dates back to Prescott throwing perfect passes and moving well before Dallas’ coaching staff think he’s doing too much too fast.
The focus is on Prescott’s close friendship with Elliott, forged from Backfield colleagues since the 2016 design and strengthened by celebrating July births within a week. While Elliott talks about it, Prescott knocks on the door only to hit him in the face so he doesn’t see the gift box Elliott got for him.
Zeke continues to mess with Prescott by taking his bike – the cowboys’ preferred mode of transportation around camp – for a joyride. The leaner Elliott is determined to recover from a rare shaky season in which he struggled to hold onto the ball. It’s okay to let go of the handlebars instead.
Liev Schreiber can make a funny narrative joke about “getting cut”, with the action turned to the coordinator of the cowboys special teams, John “Bones” Fassel – without being snappy – telling the players how his vasectomy worked, complete with Vas Deferens Credentials.
While the excitement of Prescott’s return is slowed by shoulder strain keeping him from training, attention shifts to defense, with round one linebacker Micah Parsons taking the rookie spotlight. Hear the hype montage, including his quick chase from Elliott and a camp interception.
There’s a bit more drama with Prescott staying on the field too long as coach Mike McCarthy prefers to sit outside and check his shoulder. Head coach Jim Maurer advises the coaches and Jones that Prescott shouldn’t force throws for a while. Jones responds by pouring extra salt on his breakfast sandwich, which appears to be a McGriddle.
McCarthy introduces the Mojo Moment, which is looking for players who show a level of confidence and charisma in camp, inspired by an Austin Powers movie clip. Fans are finding the moment to wish Prescott a happy birthday on July 29th. Zeke hands him a cake, which Dak is promptly served straight to his face. Prescott gets to open his gift from Elliott, a chic new suitcase with studs for more stylish road trips.
There’s more McCarthy reminding the Cowboys that he won a Super Bowl with the Packers and of his strong roots in Pittsburgh. His parents are in the spotlight in Canton, Ohio, in the team’s opener against Pittsburgh. The offense is without Prescott and Elliott, which leaves Parsons free to be the star of the night on the defense. The only disappointment with Parsons is that he doesn’t have a chance to play anymore.
After a few mandatory game highlights, Schreiber concludes with a tough monologue on what makes the cowboys in the camp what it is, which makes it hard to believe that this is the same guy in the mattress company advertisements.
Hard Knocks episode 2
McCarthy moves into the limelight with a clichéd, vulgar motivational speech before the opening credits. Then it’s a little “soft tap”, with Schreiber dropping a “Serenity Now” Seinfield reference as the team relaxes for Monica, his yoga teacher at camp. Then it’s back to Elliott, who is having trouble with his “gooch” that requires immediate attention with baby powder.
Time for a Prescott injury update: he’s still not allowed to throw when his shoulder needs rest, so he’s focused on helping the backups that still include second grader Ben DiNucci. We see DiNucci doing his thing in the camp, also with a lot of help from the trainers. His speed can be seen on the field before putting his mind to the test by defeating Parsons in a real game of chess.
Defensive Ending DeMarcus Lawrence makes his first appearance on “Hard Knocks” and joins his family for a little break on the beach. Cue the montage that shows just how good a skilled pass rusher Lawrence is. We learn from his wife, Sasha, how DeMarcus has matured and grown as a person and a father over the course of his cowboy career.
We meet defensive line coach Aden Durde, who made a cameo in the first episode. Durde, a Brit who once played in Europe, was brought back from Atlanta with Dan Quinn. It is quite natural to emphasize Durde’s heavy English accent, including a reporter asking for a reverse “Ted Lasso”, Jerry Jones comparing him to Winston Churchill and defensive lineman Tarell Basham making his worst impression.
Basham goes against the Rams in a joint training session only to roll his ankle causing him to lose time with the injury. The heat of the camp brings out the intensity in both teams, with a lot of physicality and a few punches with Aaron Donald, the NFL’s most feared defender, who alerted the cowboys to his presence. Then it meets with other cowboy families.
We meet end / linebacker Azur Kamara, who was added to the Cowboys training roster last year as an undrafted free agent from Kansas. The native of Cote d’Ivoire left Africa for America to pursue his late-developed passion for football. Kamara is working hard to keep the active list under Durde’s watchful eye.
Prescott is busy doing his “mental reps” by throwing and running on the side as much as possible to stay sharp in camp. He makes the most of practicing on a pitch count.
It’s CeeDee Lamb’s second year wide receiver turn, much to the delight of Jones and “The Playmaker” Michael Irvin. Lamb plays one game at a time at camp before packing its bags and preparing to return to Dallas to meet up with its dogs.
The second preseason game in Arizona against the Cardinals begins. The defense of the cowboys is active and, like the game of the Steelers, Parsons is in the middle of the action that makes games. In the stands, his mother Sherese is once again his loudest supporter. Durde and McCarthy try to inspire the players to quit well after the break. Kamara gets into the game and plays a big game while being cheered on by his own proud mother.
DiNucci is also doing his best to secure a place in the squad behind Prescott by leading the way. It’s up to Kamara and the lower-level defense to keep the game going. He appears to have a groundbreaking strip bag, only to not count it because the Cardinals made a false start. The Cardinals tie the game and come back into position for the game-winning field goal if the officials fail to impose a suspension penalty on Kamara. Kamara’s efforts are still praised, with his mother showing the most love.
Hard Knocks episode 3
(Released Tuesday, Aug. 24 at 10 p.m. ET on HBO, HBO Max)
Hard Knocks episode 4
(Coming Tuesday, August 31 at 10 p.m. ET on HBO, HBO Max)
Hard Knocks episode 5
(Released Tuesday, September 7, 10 p.m. ET on HBO, HBO Max)
Hard Knocks schedule 2021
|Channel / stream
|Aug 10, 10 a.m. ET
|HBO, HBO MAX
|Aug 5, 10 a.m. ET
|HBO, HBO MAX
|Aug. 24, 10 a.m. ET
|HBO, HBO MAX
|Aug. 31, 10:00 p.m. ET
|HBO, HBO MAX
|April 7th, 10pm ET
|HBO, HBO MAX