If you needed a reminder that football is (hopefully) almost back, here it is: the new season of HBO’s Hard Knocks premieres Tuesday night.
With the current situation in the United States, this time around will understandably be a little different. For the first time ever, Hard Knocks will showcase two teams, the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers.
It’s a fitting and obvious pairing, as the two teams become “roommates” this season, and will share the beautiful SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California.
Both teams are star-studded on both sides of the ball, and this should shape up to be one of the most intriguing seasons of the show yet.
Let’s focus on the Chargers. Who will be the breakout stars? What storylines should we expect to see? Let’s find out.
Let’s just state the obvious
Every team’s camp is a bit abnormal this year.
We’re going to get a close-up view at the changes made this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes masks, a lack of break-outs, no dorms and more.
In unprecedented times, we get unprecedented procedures. Being a fly on the wall for two NFL teams handling America’s biggest health crisis in decades will probably be the focus of the show, and the most interesting aspect.
Cha-Ching! Joey Bosa just cashed in
Two-time Pro Bowl defensive end Joey Bosa started his training camp off with a paycheck.
The contract will surely be a topic of conversation on the show, but Bosa may also grip the attention of fans for other reasons.
As a guest of Barstool Sports’ podcast, “Pardon My Take,” tight end Hunter Henry was asked which teammate he believed would be a star of the show.
“I’m excited for people to see [Bosa], a little more,” he said. “He doesn’t show much personality, but this dude is hilarious. Everything he says is hilarious.”
With a low-key demeanor and dry sense of humor, Bosa’s popularity may grow with his bank account on Hard Knocks.
America, meet the JackBoyz
From one guy that “doesn’t show much personality,” to a group that ooze flash and swagger.
The leader of the bunch is of course Derwin James. Entering his third season, he’s already made his mark as one of the top safeties in the league, and he’ll surely steal the show just like he steals footballs from opposing quarterbacks. Keep an eye on him, he’s sure to be a star of the show.
New kid on the block
Now to some actual football-related storylines, 2020 marks a new era of Charger football.
He likely will not start for the team this year, especially with the absence of a pre-season tune-up, but Hard Knocks will likely dig into the 22-year old’s transition to the NFL, especially under abnormal circumstances.
The show will give fans a chance to bond with their new QB and learn more about him. Expect a decent amount of airtime for Herbert.
On the other hand…
In 2018, Hard Knocks featured the Cleveland Browns. They were fresh off of selecting Baker Mayfield with the number one overall pick, and much of the show focused on that QB group — which also included Tyrod Taylor.
Fast forward to 2020, and Taylor is once again the presumptive starter for a team with a rookie QB on his heels. The previous season showed Taylor’s acceptance and willingness to serve as a mentor for a young player, and he’ll likely do it again.
Taylor is a fan favorite. He’s by all accounts a nice guy, and has an interesting story. Hard Knocks fans should be excited to see him again.
“Uprising for Social Justice”
Rightfully so, issues of social justice and racial inequality have dominated the news cycle along with the pandemic in 2020.
Those conversations don’t escape sports, especially for a team like the Chargers, which has a Black head coach.
Anthony Lynn is one of three Black head coaches in the NFL, and he’s been vocal about the need for these tough conversations. He’s involved those talks in his team meetings, and it’ll be fascinating to see how those are handled on Hard Knocks.
XFL to NFL
One of the most endearing parts of Hard Knocks is watching those fringe players. Fans become attached to undrafted free agents or guys with inspirational stories. When those players fail to make the team, it stings.
One of the lead candidates to be the breakout fringe player is Donald Parham Jr.
The Chargers signed the 6-foot-8 tight end after the XFL suspended operations in March.
He was one of the standout players in the league’s short run. In five games for the Dallas Renegades, he caught 24 passes for 307 yards and four touchdowns.
Parham combines size with quickness. He has a versatile skill set and could take reps in the slot. His pursuit to make the roster, and interesting story makes him a prime candidate to see some camera time.
A new home
As of right now, the Rams and Chargers are set to open SoFi Stadium in September. Unfortunately the housewarming parties will have to wait.
We’ll likely see a preview of the new facility on Hard Knocks.
To no surprise, a few former Chargers have been vocal about the lack of fan support since the move to Los Angeles. Those concerns would be intriguing to see covered on the show, and whether players believe the new stadium will help that cause or not.
The new season of Hard Knocks, much like the actual NFL season, will look completely different than what we’re used to. With two teams in one city, there will be lots of interesting stories to cover.
Hard Knocks: Los Angeles premiers Tuesday night on HBO.
Austin covers the Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Chargers for OT Heroics. Follow him on Twitter @AustinTurner_ . For more coverage on the NFL, check out the rest of the great content at Overtime Heroics. Find OTH merch powered by teespring here.