The fourth episode of HARD KNOCKS: TRAINING CAMP WITH THE DETROIT LIONS aired Tuesday evening. The episode covered Detroit's week leading up to their preseason finale in Pittsburgh and the game itself, plus a behind-the-scenes look at the roster-building process.
Here are my 10 biggest takeaways from the fourth episode:
1. I really liked the inside look at GM Brad Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell in Campbell's office going through the names on the board and talking about the 27 cuts needed to trim the roster from 80 players to 53 and a few of the hard decisions they expected were coming down the line. They didn't air specific names, but a player's future literally comes down to a name on a white board sometimes.
2. The show then moves on to the collaborative process between not just Holmes and Campbell, but all the front office and coaching staff in a room hashing out roster decisions. I've talked to several members of the front office staff and coaching staff over the last year, and they've told me how that is one of the things they really like about Holmes' leadership style. He's not afraid to hear everyone's opinion, even if they differ from his own. That's a sign of a good leader.
3. The player-run practice in Allen Park was a big headline last week. "Let's see what you guys do with it," Campbell said in the team meeting announcing how practice was going to go. "Make it your own." To me, the footage of practice showed the Lions have a pretty mature bunch of professionals on this team. Plus the line from quarterback Jared Goff about not needing coaches got a chuckle out of me.
4. It took four episodes, but we finally got some good camera time on Goff, who is arguably the most important player for the Lions to be successful in 2022. He's looked great in camp, and it was good to hear some of those same remarks from quarterbacks coach Mark Brunell and Campbell. I've been really impressed with Goff's performance over the last month.
5. Defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn is a fiery coach, we've seen that in previous episodes, but I liked the fact that he was mad and wanted his defensive players to take it personally with how the offense worked the defense over pretty good in a recent practice. Goff completed 16 of 18 passes in the practice Glenn was referring to, and Glenn let his defense have it. The offense got the better of the defense early and often in camp, but the defense has stepped it up of late.
6. The plan in Pittsburgh was to play quarterback Tim Boyle the entire first half. The Lions pivoted after he struggled in the first quarter. David Blough outplayed Boyle throughout the course of practice and the preseason. The Lions decided Tuesday to keep Blough over Boyle on the initial 53-man roster. Will it be enough for him to be the backup Week 1? We shall see. One thing is clear about Blough though, he's a tough dude and his teammates respect the heck out of him.
7. The Lions' fully-padded night practice was one of the more intense practices I've seen in my 14 years on the beat. It looked just as intense on screen as it did in person.
8. It was good to see new offensive coordinator Ben Johnson highlighted more in this week's episode. He's going to play a central role in Detroit's success this season. Johnson is a smart guy, and it was good to hear his players talk about him in the same light.
9. I have to say, I like the smack talk coming from rookie defensive lineman Aidan Hutchinson. That man is pretty confident in his abilities, and I think that bodes well for the Lions' defense.
10. "I think we have a defense, gentleman." That's what Campbell said after the first-team defense had a really nice performance in Pittsburgh against their starters on offense. We'll see what happens in the regular season, but if he's right, this team will take a big step forward from last year's three-win season.
Extra point: These roster decisions are as tough as they come. We can see that on the expressions on the coaches' faces when they decide a player's fate at the end of the episode.