HBO 'Hard Knocks' 2021: Best Cowboys Storylines, Moments, Reaction for Episode 3

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVAugust 25, 2021

End Racism and the Dallas Cowboys logo are displayed on the end zone during an NFL football game between the Dallas Cowboys and the San Francisco 49ers in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Roger Steinman)
AP Photo/Roger Steinman

Everything is bigger in Texas.

Even the practice facility.

The Ford Center in Frisco, Texas, took center stage in the early portion of Tuesday's episode of HBO's Hard Knocks, which was the third in this year's edition chronicling training camp for the Dallas Cowboys.

Viewers were treated to a visual tour of the facilities, practice field and everything surrounding what is affectionately deemed "The Star." While the 12,000-seat indoor stadium—part of a complex with a luxury hotel, shopping center and amusement park-like setting—is one thing, the drone work caught the attention of Patrick Mahomes:

Patrick Mahomes II @PatrickMahomes

So this guy is really that nice with the drone?!?!? <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/HardKnocks?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#HardKnocks</a>

NFL Films @NFLFilms

Take a soaring 3-minute journey through The Star. 💫🤯<a href="https://twitter.com/dallascowboys?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@DallasCowboys</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/HardKnocks?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#HardKnocks</a> <a href="https://t.co/6VAB7gbNBe">pic.twitter.com/6VAB7gbNBe</a>

The narrator said the Ford Center was "the vision of one man, Jerry Jones."

It makes sense, then, that fans chanted the Cowboys president's name when he addressed them before a practice, but Tuesday's episode wasn't all about the lavishness that often defines America's Team.

The players also got plenty of shine during sequences that included rookie running back JaQuan Hardy struggling with his contacts until he switched to rec specs, cornerback Trevon Diggs Facetiming with his brother—who just so happens to be Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs—and Amari Cooper's return to practice as he recovers from an ankle injury.

The wide receiver may be his team's No. 1 option, but he didn't hesitate to show off his skill set to teammate CeeDee Lamb:

NFL Films @NFLFilms

Last week, <a href="https://twitter.com/AmariCooper9?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@AmariCooper9</a> opened up his bag of tricks for sophomore <a href="https://twitter.com/_CeeDeeThree?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@_CeeDeeThree</a>. 🤝<a href="https://twitter.com/dallascowboys?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@DallasCowboys</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/HardKnocksNow?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#HardKnocksNow</a> <a href="https://t.co/gHvoqUKUEE">pic.twitter.com/gHvoqUKUEE</a>

NFL Films @NFLFilms

Don't sleep on Coop 🤫<a href="https://twitter.com/dallascowboys?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@DallasCowboys</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/HardKnocks?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#HardKnocks</a> <a href="https://t.co/m1EzuZvpfi">pic.twitter.com/m1EzuZvpfi</a>

While Cooper's spot on the team is secure, much of training camp is defined by the players fighting for roster spots. One of those players is offensive lineman Isaac Alarcon, who was on the Cowboys' practice squad last year and is part of the NFL's International Player Pathway program.

The program allows international players the opportunity to earn spots on NFL rosters, and he explained that it made something he never dreamed was possible into a reality. He even gets to place a decal of the Mexican flag on his helmet and had plenty of support from his parents and brother in Tuesday's episode.

NFL Films @NFLFilms

Making his country proud 🇲🇽<a href="https://twitter.com/IsaacAlarcon?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@IsaacAlarcon</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/HardKnocks?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#HardKnocks</a> <a href="https://t.co/Uof6mJc7cv">pic.twitter.com/Uof6mJc7cv</a>

If Alarcon makes the team, he will be protecting Dak Prescott. Prescott may be a two-time Pro Bowl quarterback, but he can't handle Jonathon Jackson when it comes to playing cards.

Jackson is the mailroom supervisor and works with football operations, but he also calls himself the "card doctor."  He had no problem teaching the star quarterback a thing or two when it came to playing a game that wasn't football:

NFL Films @NFLFilms

"Imma beat <a href="https://twitter.com/dak?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Dak</a> Prescott, and he knows it."<br> <br>Jonathon Jackson plays for keeps 😤🃏<br> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/HardKnocks?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#HardKnocks</a>: The <a href="https://twitter.com/dallascowboys?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@DallasCowboys</a> airs TONIGHT at 10pm on <a href="https://twitter.com/hbomax?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@HBOMax</a>. <a href="https://t.co/TQQM1vQqZK">pic.twitter.com/TQQM1vQqZK</a>

NFL Films @NFLFilms

Jonathon Jackson handed <a href="https://twitter.com/dak?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Dak</a> the L. 😂<br> <a href="https://twitter.com/dallascowboys?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@DallasCowboys</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/HardKnocks?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#HardKnocks</a> <a href="https://t.co/mvgbbO1iUI">pic.twitter.com/mvgbbO1iUI</a>

It was one of the light-hearted moments Hard Knocks is known for, but eventually things came back to football.

The episode built toward the Cowboys' 20-14 loss to the Houston Texans in their third preseason game, although it wasn't all bad news. After all, Cooper took the field for the first time in the preseason, Alarcon impressed, Diggs' son Aaiden stole the show, and the offense will surely look better when Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott join the team in game action.

NFL Films @NFLFilms

Cowboys newest motivational speaker? 😅<a href="https://twitter.com/TrevonDiggs?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TrevonDiggs</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/HardKnocks?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#HardKnocks</a> <a href="https://t.co/ww4FX2dVRm">pic.twitter.com/ww4FX2dVRm</a>

Who will be behind Prescott on the depth chart is a bigger question, as Ben DiNucci turned in an ugly performance with zero touchdowns and three interceptions.

Cooper Rush was very much the opposite, finishing 10-of-12 passing for 97 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. He looked like someone capable of backing up the starter this season, which could be a critical position given Prescott's health concerns as he looks to overcome ankle and shoulder injuries.

Prescott's efforts to do just that have been a focus of Hard Knocks and will surely help define the 2021 season in Dallas.


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