HBO’s Hard Knocks returns for another season of locker room voyeurism plus contract anxiety, this time out with tween-team the Houston Texans, est. 2002. We just wish it included Michael Sam, who is playing in the Canadian Football League instead of the NFL where he belongs.
The annual NFL training camp soap opera, five weeks of hard bodies, hard stares and hard hits on the field and in the back office, is shot and edited within hours of air, so there’s a sense of immediacy to the production; you can pretty much smell the sweat from Saturday’s pre-season game by the time it airs on Tuesday. Best thing about the show, after the ritual player cuts and emotional calls home: Liev Schreiber’s narration, which sounds like it’s recorded with the Ray Donovan star purring in bed with a Chivas neat in one hand and an emancipated Disney star in the other.
For 2015, the team looks ready. The burly Texans, 9-7 in 2014, have made it to the playoffs just twice in their 13-year history, but they’ve got attitude and fight (practice with the Washington Redskins this weekend resulted in brawling), quarterback drama and some new guys with breakout potential, at least for television. And your pants.
Before the first snap, here are 10 hard reasons to watch Hard Knocks: Houston Texans.
1. A.J. Bouye, cornerback
College: Central Florida
This guy is just fine.
2. Brian Cushing, linebacker
College: Southern California
Looks like a Trojan, and was at USC. Badass.
This guy could be a Spartan straight out of 300, and weighs more. Woof.
4. C.J. Fiedorowicz, tight end
Hometown: Johnsburg, IL
They grow ’em big in the Midwest. Iowa alum Fiedorowicz was rated fifth best tight end prospect in his class, ’nuff said.
5. Ryan Griffin, tight end
The New England native was a Husky at UConn and named Offensive Player of the Year, two of your favorite things. Great eyes!
6. Jonathan Grimes, running back
College: William & Mary
Hometown: Willingboro, NJ
Grimes gets around: since 2012 he’s played with the Texans, the New York Jets, the Texans, the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Texans, in that order. Has something Houston keeps coming back for.
7. Kevin Johnson, corner back
College: Wake Forest
Johnson was the Texans’ No. 1 draft pick this year. Will he be yours?
8. Will Johnson, punter
College: Texas State
A look at the Texas native’s Twitter feed reveals he’s an avid sportsman with wild boar, giant mouth bass and a lot of ducks for trophies. Ask to see his guns.
9. John Simon, linebacker
College: Ohio State
Hometown: Youngstown, OH
Buckeye Simon is the football-playing brother Bradley Cooper didn’t know he had, if you’re into role-playing like that.
10. JJ Watt, defensive end
Hometown: Pewaukee, WI.
In 2014, Veteran Watt was named Defensive Player of the Year or Falcon Studios’ Next Texas Superstar, you decide. It’s your fantasy league.
Hard Knocks: Houston Texans premieres Tuesday on HBO.