If there is one thing for you to remember about the Hard Knocks series on HBO this month, it’s that Falcons’ defensive line coach Bryan Cox is one mean, tough son of a gun – at least when he has to be.
In episode four Tuesday night, Cox continually gave rookie defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman the business. There is no doubt the Falcons are pushing Hageman, and it’s not because they are trying to justify taking him in the second round.
It’s obvious they think this kid can be good – really good.
But Cox is going to be his personal shadow and will stay on his behind all day everyday if it’s necessary for this kid to reach his potential. We saw it in the second half Saturday when Hageman made some solid plays versus the Titans.
This episode was volatile. It started off with special teams coach Keith Armstrong hollering at his players about their awful play in Houston. Rookie Devonta Freeman got beat and Armstrong chewed him out. He told Dez Southward, “Do it the way I tell you to do it,” while Jacques Smith was told, loudly, “Do what I tell you to do.”
“Grow up or Get out” was a phrase used by narrator Live Schreiber to describe the point the Falcons’ coaches are trying to get across to the young players. Armstrong’s screaming session must have worked, since the Falcons made several solid plays on special teams against Tennessee.
“Now that’s how you play special teams,” head coach Mike Smith said to Armstrong.
The show also focused on center Joe Hawley, showing how he uses pottery to unwind and relax. But it also showed offensive line coach Mike Tice complimenting Hawley, which was good for the young linemen to hear.
“Joe Hawley has had, in my opinion, an excellent camp. This is a guy that loves going out there and playing the game of football,” Tice said.
His nickname is “Joe Brawley,” considering the number of fights he’s been in during camp and even during last week’s game against the Titans. Hawley took up for quarterback Matt Ryan when one of the Titans pushed him in the face. We also saw Ryan Schraeder get involved, which was seen and liked by Smith.
There were some weird moments of the show, like when reality star Kim Zolciak called husband Kroy Biermann her “love muffin.” But the most enjoyable moment of the show was when Ryan was leaving the Georgia Dome after last week’s game. He stopped to sign some autographs of some young boys, who looked to be around 12 or so.
“He touched my phone,” one of the kids said, as Ryan took his phone to take a selfie. The looks on those kids’ faces were priceless as Ryan made them a memory they will have forever.
The end of the show had Mike Smith and Thomas Dimitroff bringing in players one-by-one and releasing them. Quarterback Jeff Mathews, who was undrafted out of Cornell, seems the most crushed by the news. You have to wonder if the Falcons will bring Mathews back for the practice squad, especially if they release veteran T.J. Yates and make Sean Renfree the number two behind Matt Ryan.
Next week’s episode is the last one. It will undoubtedly focus on the roster decisions the Falcons must make this weekend. We’ve learned a lot about the team with this show, and if we see Hageman develop into a solid player, I think we’ll all give Coach Cox a round of applause for his unending work to make the young player a solid NFL professional.
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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