HBO 'Hard Knocks' 2020: Best Rams, Chargers Storylines, Reaction for Episode 3

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistAugust 26, 2020

The Rams hold their first practice at their new stadium, SoFi Stadium Saturday, Aug. 22, 2020, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)
Kyusung Gong/Associated Press

The third episode of HBO's Hard Knocks is often when the narrative shifts to preseason games as players on the roster bubble have an opportunity to make a statement during live action.

Not so much this year.

With preseason games canceled, Tuesday's episode of Hard Knocks: Los Angeles highlighting the Chargers and Rams focused on the first week of practice with pads. That first week arrived later than usual in 2020 thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, but viewers were treated to montages of actual hits and the sounds of football right around the corner.

NFL Films @NFLFilms

Every day of 2020 hitting me like: #HardKnocks | @chargers https://t.co/BqbBBTmz0t

NFL Films @NFLFilms

That feeling of putting pads on never gets old #HardKnocks https://t.co/WHsjggNiHY

Padded practices meant Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen and cornerback Chris Harris Jr. got to go against each other again, like they so often did when the latter was on the Denver Broncos.

"Being able to put that work in together is just going to make us better," Harris said after their practice battles.

Los Angeles Chargers @Chargers

when people say keenan isn't elite https://t.co/AuDNZ3rF1W

NFL Films @NFLFilms

Nobody: The bowling alley screen when you get a strike #HardKnocks | @keenan13allen https://t.co/70wLhsbrsW

It was a shift away from the reminders of the new normal of safety protocols, testing procedures, Zoom meetings and stricter rules in place during the pandemic that dominated the first two episodes. 

So was the introduction to SoFi Stadium for the Rams.

The entire team, including quarterback Jared Goff, defensive tackle Aaron Donald and head coach Sean McVay, was blown away by the sheer size of the stadium as they took the field for their first scrimmage. If that scrimmage was any indication, Donald is going to rack up plenty of sacks this season.

NFL Films @NFLFilms

"Glad that guy's on my team." —Jared Goff, probably. #HardKnocks https://t.co/RhrVPAPnXy

Rookie linebacker Clay Johnston is no Donald, but he was fired up for a chance to play in the stadium and had quite the notable name to turn to when looking for advice.

Johnston's father, Kent, was a strength coach for the Green Bay Packers for seven years and was the best man at Brett Favre's wedding. The Gunslinger made a surprise appearance during a virtual visit with Johnston to put the rookie's mind at ease as he competes for a job.

Los Angeles Rams @RamsNFL

Papa Favre! @C_Johnston4 | #HardKnocks https://t.co/olemGr1HwR

While Johnston is competing for a roster spot on the Rams, defensive end Melvin Ingram has been more of a vocal leader for the Chargers.

Tuesday's episode explained the three-time Pro Bowler wasn't taking reps until he received a new contract. Even though he wasn't practicing, Ingram was still on the field as a veteran leader giving advice to his teammates whenever he wasn't making music in the studio.

Los Angeles Chargers @Chargers

but he's not a rapper 🔥 https://t.co/LJH64DR6uf

NFL Films @NFLFilms

King Mel returns 👑 #HardKnocks | @MelvinIngram https://t.co/1SHGtSa6GW

He eventually received that new contract and fittingly dominated on the field during his return to practice.

If he does that during the regular season alongside Joey Bosa, the Chargers could return to the playoffs following a 5-11 effort in 2019.