It’s official, the Cincinnati Bengals are returning to Hard Knocks. After appearing on the HBO show in 2009, which happens to be the last time they won the AFC North Division, the Bengals are going to make their second appearance on Hard Knocks. Obviously, we won’t know exactly what’s going to happen until the show airs, but here are 10 things to look out for that could be covered on the documentary:
1. Getting to know Andy Dalton – Dalton probably isn’t quite as boring as Joe Flacco, but he’s not the most out-spoken quarterback either, so it’ll be interesting to take a closer look at him behind the scenes. Obviously, he wasn’t around the last time the Bengals were on the show, so it’s a chance for viewers to get to know him better. Also, he’s an important part of a team that’s trying to get to the next level, and he’s a quarterback with a lot to prove, so it’s an important training camp for him, and that should make Dalton interesting to watch.
2. Rookie tight end Tyler Eifert – The show tends to focus a lot on the team’s first-round draft pick. Eifert’s progress throughout training camp and how big his role will be in the offense will be fascinating to watch unfold because he has the potential to really transform Cincinnati’s offense.
3. Andre Smith drama – It’s déjà vu all over again with Smith, who was a contract holdout during his rookie year in 2009, the first time the Bengals were featured on Hard Knocks. Now the cameras are back with Smith coming off a chaotic offseason. He was arrested in January, signed a new three-year contract with the Bengals after speculation that he might not be back with the team this year, and then he missed both OTA’s and mandatory minicamp. All of that is coming to ahead at the start of training camp, with HBO cameras on hand to document it, which could make for some interesting television.
4. Pacman Jones – It was another eventful offseason away from the field for Jones, which should keep the cameras focused on him, as he continues to find himself in trouble. There’s no telling what he’ll do next, and now HBO cameras will be there to watch if Jones gets himself into trouble again. The Bengals can’t be excited about Jones becoming a storyline on the show, but for the people watching, it should provide good drama.
5. How the organization has changed – Since the Bengals are appearing on Hard Knocks for the second time, why not do a “then and now” segment to trace the progress the organization has made over the past few years since the first time HBO was there to document the team. Some things haven’t changed like the head coach and the team’s inability to get past the Wild Card round in the playoffs, but other things have changed, so why not take an in depth look at how far the Bengals as an organization have come since 2009.
6. Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden – It’s his third year as the offensive coordinator in Cincinnati and there’s a lot of pressure on him to take the Bengals to the next level, especially after the team used its first two draft picks on offensive skill players. Also, Gruden has been named as a head coaching candidate the past two off-seasons, and Hard Knocks will give him a lot of exposure that could help him in that quest, as he has a chance to show everyone watching why he’s considered one of the best young offensive coordinators in the NFL.
7. A first-hand look at A.J. Green – Green is one of the best wide receivers in the NFL, but he still doesn’t get the credit he deserves. Hopefully HBO will give him some love and give the audience a glimpse of what makes him such a special player, because entering his third season in the league he should be on the verge of some major recognition as being one of the league’s most talented receivers.
8. James Harrison – As a five-time Pro Bowler, Harrison joining the Bengals is a big deal, especially after being released by the division-rival Steelers. Of course, Harrison adjusting to his new team, as well as his transition from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3 defense, are both things that HBO is going to want to dedicate some time to covering.
9. Onterio McCalebb – Hard Knocks likes to spend some time on undrafted rookies, and what better undrafted rookie to focus on than McCalebb, who will be one of the fastest players in the league if he makes the team. The Bengals are going to see if they can move him to cornerback, but it might be worth it to get him a few touches at running back and in the return game as well. Whatever role the Bengals decide to give him, it’ll be interesting to watch; that is, if the camera can keep up with him.
10. Marvin Lewis cultivating a winner – Everything begins and ends with the head coach. More than anything, Hard Knocks is about documenting a team getting prepared for the season to come, so there should be a lot of focus on how Lewis is getting his team ready for such a big season, as expectations are high with the Bengals hoping to finally get over the hump and make a deep run in the postseason. If Lewis is going to lead the Bengals deep into the playoffs, he’ll need to lay a good foundation during training camp, and that’s something to monitor closely during Hard Knocks.