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5 things to watch: Detroit Lions 'Hard Knocks'

On Monday, the NFL and HBO announced that the Detroit Lions will be featured in the 2022 edition of HBO's Emmy winning reality series "Hard Knocks." The series gives an in-depth look at an NFL franchise throughout training camp and the preseason.

The five-episode series should provide an in-depth and behind-the-scenes look at Lions coaches, players, front office and the City of Detroit, and is scheduled to run Aug. 9-Sept. 6.

Here are the five things I'm most looking forward to watching:

1. Head coach Dan Campbell

Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell is known best nationally for his biting knee caps speech at his opening presser and for his coffee order during training camp, but he'll be mic'd up on a daily basis for this series. It will be good for football fans everywhere to hear how passionate and knowledgeable he is talking ball.

Players love playing for Campbell for his honestly and frankness. My guess is the national audience will come to appreciate that about him too. He loves competition, and it will be awesome to hear his passion and reaction to competitive periods of practice and for the player/coach competitions that were a staple of his first training camp in Detroit last year.

Campbell isn't afraid to wear his emotions on his sleeve, and he'll no-doubt be a focal point of the series.

2. Player personalities

It wasn't long after the Lions signed veteran running back Jamaal Williams in free agency last year that his infectious personality showed through both on the practice field, in the locker room and during interviews with media.

Williams never seems to have a down day. He is often spotted dancing off to the side of practice, playing jokes on teammates or interacting with fans. He's just one of those players teams love to have in the dog days of August who helps keep the mood light and morale high.

Another player who could get some love during the series is center Frank Ragnow. Could we see some Grizzly Man Outdoors action? He's also got a terrific personality and is a team leader and captain.

Quarterback Jared Goff has been through Hard Knocks before in Los Angeles, so he knows what to expect. HBO could also take an interest in second-year stars Penei Sewell and Amon-Ra St. Brown. Both have big-time talent and great stories that led them to the NFL.

Getting to know players and their families even more on and off the field is one of the things this series does a great job of.

3. Competitive coaches

Like Campbell, the Lions have a lot of former NFL players on their staff. Also like Campbell, there are some larger-than-life personalities among them.

Duce Staley (assistant head coach/running backs), Mark Brunell (quarterbacks), Hank Fraley (offensive line), Antwaan Randle-El (receivers), Kelvin Sheppard (linebackers) and Aaron Glenn (defensive coordinator) all had long and successful NFL careers before getting to the coaching ranks.

The competitive juices that made those guys great players has transitioned into coaching. There's constant jawing between the offensive and defensive coaches at practice, and it's not unusual for a coach to jump into a competitive period or two.

It will be fun for fans to get a closer look at some of those moments.

4. New offensive coordinator Ben Johnson

Johnson started as Detroit's tight ends coach in 2020, but was elevated to passing game coordinator midway through last year, and because of the improvements Detroit's offense had after that move, Johnson was named Detroit's new offensive coordinator by Campbell this offseason.

Johnson takes over a unit with arguably one of the best offensive lines in football, a veteran quarterback in Goff, who played really well the second half of last season, a Pro Bowl tight end in T.J. Hockenson, a deep and talented running back group and a receiver corps that's improved this offseason (signing veteran DJ Chark) and is expected to further add to its ranks in the draft. The offense has the potential to be pretty good. Johnson has been entrusted to run it all under Campbell's guidance.

Johnson is a former quarterback at North Carolina and has quickly risen in the NFL coaching ranks. Coaches don't rise as quickly as Johnson has unless they are talented and get the buy-in from players.

Who is Johnson as a person and coach? Why do players respond so well to him? It will be nice to get to know Detroit's new OC a little better.

5. Highlighting Detroit

Detroit sometimes gets a bad rap from people outside the city who don't know its history, blue-collar mentality, diverse communities and resiliency.

Detroit has so much to offer, and that's often not highlighted nationally. Here's hoping everyone gets a chance to see what a special and unique place Detroit is.

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