Third Episode Of "Hard Knocks" Introduces New Bucs Characters; Winston Still A Focal Point
The third episode of HBO's "Hard Knocks" aired last night and showed "stories of a few new characters, both established starters and fringe players" on the Buccaneers roster, according to Bette Marston of SI.com. Bucs RB Doug Martin saw a "chunk of airtime after only having tangential appearances on the first two episodes." The episode also "closely followed" undrafted CB Maurice Fleming, who is "clinging to his roster spot." The consistent attention on QB Jameis Winston during the episodes only "hammers home just how important he is to this team's culture." Meanwhile, DT Gerald McCoy "continues to be a star human being on the show" (SI.com, 8/23). BLEACHER REPORT's Scott Polacek noted WR Mike Evans was also "heavily featured as one of the team's stars, and he didn't miss the chance for some family time" (BLEACHERREPORT.com, 8/22). NFL.com's Dan Hanzus writes the study of the Bucs has been a "fun ride for three episodes and counting." The team found a way to "make the formula work." Winston has been a "certified Charisma Machine for three weeks and counting." Hanzus: "He loves football, he loves his teammates, and he loves the cameras. Everybody wins." The show has also done a "great job illustrating how far Winston still has to go from a development standpoint" (NFL.com, 8/23).
CUTTING ROOM FLOOR: In Tampa, Tom Jones notes during last week's preseason game against the Jaguars, Bucs fans "watched Winston throw a ball up [for] grabs while he was practically lying flat on his back." Fans then all watched coach Dirk Koetter "go nuts on the sideline." On last night's episode, viewers finally got to "hear what was said." Jones: "It might have been the best exchange we've seen on 'Hard Knocks' so far this season." It gave a "great insight on the relationship between Koetter and Winston" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 8/23). ESPN.com's Jenna Laine notes there were "three fights in the second joint practice against the Jaguars, but curiously, none is featured in this episode." It is "no secret -- fans of the show look forward to the fights." More importantly, the fights "show players have reached a tipping point after a sluggish performance the first day." Instead, McCoy was seen "ordering a food truck for his teammates outside the team hotel" and DT Chris Baker having a rather "intimate moment with a palm tree" (ESPN.com, 8/23).
ON THE RISE: ESPN.com's Laine noted Winston's No. 3 jersey is now No. 31 overall of the NFL's "top-selling jerseys" at Dick's Sporting Goods, ahead of Falcons QB Matt Ryan, Raiders QB Derek Carr and Saints QB Drew Brees. Winston "rose 35 spots from No. 66 last week, which coincides with the show's premiere on Aug. 8." His jersey is also ranked No. 24 overall among "all offensive players in the NFL, up 26 spots from No. 50 last week." "Hard Knocks" is also "seeing a jump in ratings." The show’s 671,000 viewers for the premiere was the show's "second-highest" in the last five years, behind only the Texans' 826,000 in '15. The first episode "wound up having" a cumulative number of almost 3 million viewers, up 20% from last year’s Rams audience after one week (ESPN.com, 8/22).