HBO’s Hard Knocks, Featuring Los Angeles Rams, Debuts On August 9th

From Sam Bradford to Richie Incognito, the past decade plus for the Rams organization has been the definition of ugly as the team hasn’t made the postseason since 2004, hasn’t compiled a winning season since 2003, and hasn’t even sniffed the playoffs as whole since the 2010 win-or-go-home NFC West showdown with the Seattle Seahawks. Six coaches, including Super Bowl winner Mike Martz and former Titans legend Jeff Fisher, have done their best to put the flames out, but injuries and inconsistency from both players and the front office just have poured massive jerry cans into the fire.

Gone are former top picks like Bradford and Chris Long, who at least put the effort in to keep the team in the game, and the Rams enter a new era of football as they’ve left St. Louis behind and returned back to the City of Angels, Los Angeles. While the Rams likely weren’t the city’s premium choice for their first football team in over twenty years — many seemed to prefer either the Oakland Raiders or San Diego Chargers — Hollywood will have to make do with a team that has less playoff appearances than the Detroit Lions since 2004.

Luckily for HBO’s Hard Knocks, all of this makes great TV. In a media release sent out on Friday, HBO said the following about this season of their award-winner TV show.

“With anticipation building as the NFL returns to Los Angeles for the first time in 22 years, HBO Sports, NFL Films and the Los Angeles Rams team up for an all-access look at what it takes to make it in the National Football League on a new season of the league’s signature documentary TV show. Debuting TUESDAY, AUG. 9 (10:00-11:00 p.m. ET/PT), HARD KNOCKS: TRAINING CAMP WITH THE LOS ANGELES RAMS will be there every step of the way as NFL Films cameras follow the organization’s return to Southern California…. A 30-person NFL Films crew is at the Rams’ training camp at team headquarters in Southern California, shooting more than 1,500 hours of footage over the course of the series.”

Los Angeles Rams Rookie Camp

Major storylines of the show, other than the obvious move to Los Angeles, are likely to include the following.

  • Jared Goff, the number one overall pick, adjusting to the pros and the pressure of bringing a team that hasn’t had success at the franchise quarterback position since the days of Kurt Warner back to the postseason.
  • The hunt for Tre Mason, who went missing months ago (as Fox Sports reported last week) and has begun to generate national attention.
  • Todd Gurley, the team’s 2015 first-rounder and an instant star, trying to prove his rookie season wasn’t a fluke and that he’s ready to take that next step forward in 2016.
  • Stedman Bailey, the wide receiver who was shot multiple times last November, and his road to recovery both physically and mentally as he tries to return to the NFL (as ESPN profiled this spring).
  • The departure of key defensive leaders Janoris Jenkins and Chris Long, as well as the need for other players to contribute both on and off the field.
  • Rookies, like Southern Miss’ Mike Thomas and South Carolina State’s Temarrick Hemingway, trying to show they belong in the NFL and can provide solid play in the league.
  • Another rookie, Western Tennesee’s Tyler Higbee, attempting to mature and move on from mistakes in college that include several arrests.
  • The job security of head coach Jeff Fisher, who has yet to register a winning season with the Rams — and hasn’t had a winning season in general since his 2008 13-3 campaign with the Tennessee Titans.
  • Attempts to get people from the Los Angeles area interested in football again.

The Rams become just the second NFC team to appear on Hard Knocks since 2009, joining the 2014 Atlanta Falcons. Other teams to be on the award-winner program since it was revived in 2007 include the Kansas City Chiefs (2007), Dallas Cowboys (2008), Cincinnati Bengals (2009), New York Jets (2010), Miami Dolphins (2012; there was no 2011 show due to the NFL lockout), Bengals (2013), and Houston Texans (2015). Of the teams to appear since the revival, four have made the postseason — the Bengals in both years, the 2010 New York Jets, and the 2015 Houston Texans, though only the Jets have managed to win a playoff game that season.

Los Angeles Rams Rookie Camp

In their first rendition of the show, Hard Knocks first covered the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens in 2001 and followed with Dallas Cowboys in 2002.

All of these storylines, as well as the team just fighting to remain relevant, will definitely make for great TV. Most likely, the Rams are going to be one of the three worst teams in the league this year and the players know that, so how will that translate to a locker room atmosphere that the cameras will cover? How will the pressure on Jeff Fisher, hailed as the savior entering the 2012 season, cause him to react when things go bad during a practice?

Earlier this year, HBO released a trailer for this season of Hard Knocks:

“It’s the first time that you have documented a move, historically I think this will be very special,” Fisher said in the video. “We want this show to be the best one to date.”

That, right there, is probably the telltale sign that St. Louis Los Angeles may be in need of a new coach: Fisher is more pre-occupied with making the show great than his team. It must be a tough time to be a Rams fan…

If you miss the initial premiere, other HBO playdates include Aug. 10 (6:30 p.m., midnight), 11 (12:45 p.m., 3:15 a.m.), 12 (9:15 a.m., 4:05 a.m.), 13 (3:55 a.m.), 14 (8:15 a.m.) and 15 (11:00 p.m.) while HBO2 playdates are scheduled for Aug. 9 (3:15 a.m.) 12 (12:40 p.m.), 13 (7:45 a.m.), 16 (4:15 p.m., 3:50 a.m.) and 24 (2:45 a.m.). HARD KNOCKS: TRAINING CAMP WITH THE LOS ANGELES RAMS will be narrated by Liev Schreiber.

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[Photo by Harry How/Getty Images]