X

HBO 'Hard Knocks' 2015: Best Texans Storylines, Moments, Reaction for Episode 3

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistAugust 26, 2015

HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 22:   Brian Hoyer #7 of the Houston Texans works on the field before the start of their game against the Denver Broncos at  NRG Stadium on August 22, 2015 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

NFL training camp features a mixture of intense moments, emotional swings, season-defining decisions and even some lightheartedness. Viewers saw all of thatfrom a starting quarterback decision to an amusing trip to NASA—on Tuesday's episode of Hard Knocks with the Houston Texans.

The show opened with reigning Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt, the face of the franchise, preaching to the team, as Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle noted:

Brian T. Smith @ChronBrianSmith

J.J. Watt opens #HardKnocks episode three with "We're the baddest f__king team on the planet" in post-practice huddle. #Texans

Brian T. Smith @ChronBrianSmith

Great footage of Watt forcing fumble on Blue at goal line. "That's why you put me in the damn game!" #Texans #HardKnocks

While Watt represents the superstar side of the NFL player spectrum, viewers also saw the difficulties that players fighting for roster spots face in training camp. Texans general manager Rick Smith cut rookie Jasper Coleman in the early stages of Tuesday's episode, as Smith noted:

Brian T. Smith @ChronBrianSmith

Good footage of Rick Smith cutting Jasper Coleman. Never see that without #HardKnocks hanging around #Texans.

While there was some somberness following the roster decision, it did not take long for a sense of optimism to come around.

Former No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney practiced with his teammates for the first time since microfracture knee surgery in December. It was a critical step toward a pass rush that could include the former South Carolina star, Watt and Vince Wilfork, a terrifying trio for opposing offensive lines.

While linebackers coach Mike Vrabel teased Clowney about whether he even remembered how to put his helmet on after so much time off, the team expressed excitement: 

Houston Texans @HoustonTexans

JD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This being Hard Knocks, there were also plenty of lighthearted moments to go along with the important developments.

Rookie wide receiver Uzoma "EZ" Nwachukwu visited NASA's Johnson Space Station in Houston and asked employees about going into space, whether Pluto can become a planet again and even the level of realism in the movie Gravity. Nwachukwu was blown away by some of the demonstrations and technology, which amused Deepi Sidhu of HoustonTexans.com:

Deepi Sidhu @DeepSlant

I love EZ's fascination with NASA!! #HardKnocks

What's more, the team performed a number of imitations to ease the tension of camp, including this one of Coach O'Brien by rookie Khari Lee, per the NFL:

NFL @NFL

Rookie Khari Lee does his best Bill O'Brien impression. In front of the entire @HoustonTexans team. Nailed it! http://t.co/ZX2iTo64wm

It wasn't just the rookies who got in on the fun. Watt revealed his love of naps and showed off a bed in the equipment room, which matches the dimensions of his bed at home. Smith appreciated the storyline:

Brian T. Smith @ChronBrianSmith

Best reveal of #HardKnocks: #Texans, @JJWatt have a bed tucked into corner of equipment area.

When the Texans returned to the field, running back Chris Polk gave fans reason for optimism. Star running back Arian Foster underwent groin surgery earlier this month and will be out for a significant amount of time, so the Texans need someone to fill in until he returns. Polk looked fast and strong in the hole on Tuesday's episode, and he even caught the eye of O'Brien.

Smith pointed out the one concern with Polk, although the former Washington Husky tallied 36 rushing yards on seven carries in Saturday's preseason contest against the Denver Broncos:

Brian T. Smith @ChronBrianSmith

Nice sideline hit by Chris Polk, who's shown promise but struggled to stay healthy during camp. #Texans #HardKnocks

Denver won the contest 14-10, but the Houston defense kept Peyton Manning in check. The real story, however, was the battle between Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett at quarterback. Hoyer finished 7-of-11 for 52 yards, while Mallett went 5-of-7 for 23 yards. Neither threw for a touchdown, and Smith noted the offense was generally a mess against the Broncos:

Brian T. Smith @ChronBrianSmith

Nice seeing O'Brien call out what was so obvious last preseason game. Offense under Hoyer, Mallett was a slow mess. #Texans #HardKnocks

Brian T. Smith @ChronBrianSmith

Mallett's struggles against #Broncos shown. As are Hoyer's. #HardKnocks #QBProblem

Sidhu, on the other hand, provided a silver lining:

Deepi Sidhu @DeepSlant

O'Brien tells the entire offense to speed up the tempo. Preseason vs. DEN definitely didn't look like the offense being run in practice.

Ironically, it was quarterback Tom Savage (with some serious help from Polk) who got the Texans on the scoreboard for the first time with a drive for a field goal. Savage is a solid security blanket in case injuries rear their ugly head again this year, but the Houston coaching staff probably would have liked to see more production from the two signal-callers who were battling for the starting spot.

The biggest moment of the game from the Texans' perspective came on defense, though, as Smith highlighted:

Brian T. Smith @ChronBrianSmith

Vrabel tells Kourtnei Brown "go make a difference in the game." Brown responds after half with a pick-six INT TD. #Texans #HardKnocks

The closing sequence of Tuesday's episode was of much long-term importance for the Texans. O'Brien pulled Hoyer and Mallett aside and told them Hoyer will be the starter, largely because of his consistency.

O'Brien, however, made a point of directly telling both quarterbacks the decision was close and Mallett should be ready to play if Hoyer falters.

Hoyer discussed his mindset following the news, per Tania Ganguli of ESPN.com:

A sense of excitement, a sense of accomplishment...and realizing that it's just the beginning. My being named the starter today doesn't mean that anything is going to be given to me. I have to go out and earn it every day. It's an honor and privilege to be able to do that. From here on out I have to go out and prove to my teammates, prove to everyone in this organization that I can be a winning starting quarterback for this team.

Hoyer will have to perform much better than he did against the Broncos if Houston plans on making the playoffs. He was largely seen as a game manager for the Cleveland Browns last season, but he'll be needed to make game-changing plays due to the absence of Foster for at least the start of the year.

If he doesn't, Mallett is waiting in the wings. 

HBO will re-air the episode Wednesday at 5:45 and 11 p.m. ET.

🚨 SPORTS NEWS ➡️ YOUR INBOX

The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.