This year, it's the Jets on HBO's "Hard Knocks" series. This is understandable. Rex Ryan runs a solid camp with a fun atmosphere. Their physical style of play and talented group of youngsters make the Jets an appropriate team to feature and follow.
Their defense allowed a league-low 252.3 total yards per game and 153.7 passing yards per game. Their run defense was ranked eighth at 98.6 yards per.
Add the league's top rushing attack at 172.2 yards per game and you've got some smash-mouth football. Oh, and they also picked up a guy named LaDainian Tomlinson this off season; you might have heard of him.
No, you can not blame HBO for picking the Jets this year.
Although they touted a miserable pass defense (21st in the league at 229.4 yards per game) and underachieving run game (25th in the league at 100 yards per game) the leagues sixth best run defense is ready to go crack skulls in a major way.
Last year, the passing defense was missing a couple pieces. The need for a shutdown corner and elite pass rusher.
They also drafted a young stud in Taylor Mays, who figures to be a future force in the secondary.
They signed defensive backs Karl Paymah and Will James; both of whom are capable of contending for a starting spot among Nate Clements, Dashon Goldson, Shawntae Spencer, Micheal Lewis, Tarell Brown, Keith Smith, and Reggie Smith—not to mention all the other rookies.
Travis LaBoy, another big hitting linebacker, has joined the team as well. His pass rushing and shallow coverage should aid the defense as well. He joins a solid line backing corps featuring Manny Lawson, Ahmad Brooks, Takeo Spikes, Parys Haralson, Matt Wilhelm—and of course the unit is anchored by perennial pro-bowler Patrick Willis.
Tough guy linebacker Navarro Bowman from Penn State was picked up in the third round of the draft as well, loading the linebacker spot full.
So where will these guys all fit on the roster? Simply put, they won't. Many will be cut. Some will be headed to the practice squad.
"As iron sharpens iron, so does one man sharpen another."
The verse is painted on the walls in the 49ers weight room, along with "Team Work" and "Hard Work." The philosophy breaks down to getting the most out of all players through competition.
When there is no room for error, you must strive for perfection. It's evolution in fast forward. Only the strong survive.
That sounds like an atmosphere that would attract viewers to me.
Add to the equation the fact that both of the 49ers' first-round picks will have a season or two of experience under their belt, and San Francisco could make a push to be the league's best rushing offense sooner than later.
It is a very steep down-hill rushing attack after all. A bullet like Gore, backed by the growing Glen Coffee, backed by a beast like Anthony Dixon. Sure you can tackle them; but exactly how many times are you going to live to tell about it?
Many players not starting but too good to cut will be camping around on special teams units, and looking for a chance to dish out some hard knocks of their own.
And then there's the coaching.
Sure, Rex Ryan is a jolly man with a healthy appreciation for shoving the ball down the opposing defense's throat. He cooks up some nice blitzes and encourages his players to do their best.
Of course he also cries after games. Win or lose. Not always, but sometimes.
There's nothing wrong with being a little emotional, and Coach Mike Singletary can be emotional too. It just happens that his form of expressing it is just a little different.
After all, he had the 49ers create a small mountain at the Santa Clara practice facility for the sole purpose of having the entire team do hill-running drills.
Ryan's Jets are gonna make some good TV this preseason; I'm just saying Singletary's 49ers can do it better. After all, we know the formula.
"Our formula is this: we go out, we hit people in the mouth."
So if you do happen to tune in to HBO's "Hard Knocks" this summer, think which team could be next in line—and smile.