The first episode of HBO's Hard Knock spent an hour establishing character lines.
We meet Derek Dennis first, which was somewhat curious as he was the first player cut even before he ever put on his pads for the team because the club signed Eric Steinbach.
We meet David Garrard while he and his family are at their lake house. We see Matt Moore offering to change his baby's "diappy," but also being described as a great leader by coaches.
Ryan Tannehill and his wife Lauren talk of the start of their marriage. (Tannehill broke his foot three days before the wedding.) "We started it in sickness and health but that's OK," Lauren Tannehill said.
The most inspiring moment is when left tackle Jake Long gathers the offensive line and demands they play better because as he says, they've just been playing like (bleep) and need to get the (bleep) on course. Long is clearly a leader on that unit.
The most interesting character is, no surprise, Chad Johnson. We first see him when he barges into a coaches' meeting and sits for two minutes before being kicked out. The whole time Johnson is there coaches are looking around, seemingly wondering what is up with Johnson, who announces he cannot go home because his wife doesn't want him there until after camp is over.
"Is that true?" Philbin asks Johnson.
True or not, Johnson eventually gets the drift he's not wanted and leaves.
You read and heard here that Johnson had a bizarre press conference in which he used curse words as if they were punctuations. He also spoke of going into porn and showed off his painted black nails.
Philbin was asked about that and played coy, saying Johnson is expected to be responsible for what he says but that stuff such as black fingernail polish doesn't bother him.
"We want these guys to ultimately, I told Mr. (Stephen) Ross, I told the players, we want these guys to represent the franchise the right way on and off the field," Philbin told the media. "It’s not a complicated formula and the game of football itself isn’t complicated. Now, we want guys to act well, behave well, be good people. It’s not that hard. Use common sense. I don’t know if, black was probably a bad color for today. He probably should have used a light blue or something (laughing).”
Yeah, hilarious. Except that Philbin didn't think Johnson's use of the F-bombs was appropriate, a fact he wasn't eager to share with the media, but showed behind the scenes.
"You represent the organization, you represent everybody. That's not the way we're going to do it," he tells an assistant.
Philbin talks with the Johnson and the player doesn't seem to agree that the F-bombs are problematic. "You're different," he tells Philbin.
"I'd say I'm different than you," Philbin answers.
Philbin is asked by HBO about Johnson. "Either he falls in line or he doesn't," he says.
And if he doesn't, could it put him in jeopardy?
"It could, yeah, absolutely." Philbin said.
An aside here: Johnson is not in jeopardy of losing his roster spot. He's starting. He's the most dynamic receiver on the team right now.
Despite the snag, Johnson comes off as funny and something of a team clown. Cornerback Vontae Davis, on the other hand, comes off as the goat of the premier episode.
Davis, a former first-round pick and starter for three years but runnning second-team now, is obviously out of shape. "Man, I'm tired right now, but I'm not going to let coach know," Davis tells teammate Reshad Jones. "I'm going to go and what you call it? I'm a act."
Davis walks up and down the sideline and tells teammates he's taking acting classes. "I'm acting not to look tired."
"You can be as good as you want to be, but you got to change your attitude, change your ways," defensive backs coach Lou Anarumo tells Davis. "You need to give better effort. When you don't want to, that's the time to press on. Get yourself in better shape and I'm going to keep on staying on you to make sure you do it."
Davis also caught Philbin's eye when he left a walk-thru practice so he could go to the bathroom. "I'm 51 and I have to go every hour but I never go," Philbin says.
At another practice, Philbin asks Davis if he's taken care of his bladder that day. One miss by HBO is that it never makes the point that Davis has fallen to second team -- a huge detail.
Bottom line is Davis comes off looking unprofessional and immature.
The Dolphins are doing this five-week documentary to improve their brand. And generally, I think this first episode does that. It shows the quarterbacks in a good light. It shows the coaches seem to know what they're talking about. It gives the players some depth. Jeff Ireland comes off looking smart.
Even rookie free agent Les Bown got a lot of camera time when, frankly, his skill level is not to the point where he probably deserves it. He is, however, interesting because Brown thinks he can go from basketball to a career in finance to the NFL.
He has great speed and decent hands and general manager Jeff Ireland talks him up in a meeting. But his pass protection and run block is a "liability," according to tight end coach Dan Campbell.
Brown blocks like a basketball player. We'll see if the coming episodes show progress.
I was surprised Reggie Bush wasn't featured in the opening episode. Next one. The offensive line -- Jake Long, Richie Incognito and Pouncey -- also are expected to get more attention next episode.
Should be entertaining.