In episode two of ‘Hard Knocks,’ the Chargers’ rookie quarterback adapts to life in the NFL as both teams strap up their helmets for the first time.
It was relatively brief, so much so that you might have missed it while scrolling through your phone or preparing dinner. But for a fleeting minute at the end of episode two of Hard Knocks, we finally saw it: real, actual, full(ish) speed football.
Alright, we’re using terms like “real” and “actual” pretty liberally here. What we saw on Tuesday night was merely players in helmets and shorts with no shoulder pads. Still, in these strange times, watching NFL players engaging in some semblance of football was a wonderful sight to behold. In the build-up to that closing, we saw a few other storylines play out, including how rookie quarterback Justin Herbert is acclimating to his new role as the future face of the franchise, and what type of add-ons Jalen Ramsey is looking for in his future home.
Buckle up your chin straps for our Hard Knocks Week 2 takeaways.
Justin Herbert Learns to Find His Voice
If there’s one thing that seemingly everybody in Chargers camp can agree on, it’s that Justin Herbert throws a pretty ball. Each of the first two episodes has dedicated a not-insignificant amount of time to Chargers teammates ooh-ing and aw-ing over slow-motion footage of Herbert’s passes.
An area of improvement for the rookie? Learning to speak up.
Questions about Herbert’s more passive demeanor have consistently followed him since before the pre-draft process started. He doesn’t come off as the most talkative guy, though those who have played with him contend his leadership qualities are beyond reproach.
Still, stepping in as the quarterback for an NFL team brings with it specific challenges. Things that appear simple—like breaking a huddle or barking out pre-snap cadences—can be daunting. During a walk-through, Chargers coach Anthony Lynn noticed Herbert’s cadence varying depending on whether the play was a run or pass, something he brought to Herbert’s attention.
“I’m trying to get him to talk and communicate more,” Lynn said. “He’s quiet—usually at that position, you’re a big mouth.”
Herbert’s demeanor is a stark contrast to motormouth Philip Rivers, who started each game for the past 14 seasons for the Chargers. Current starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor is also a much more talkative presence, a trait Herbert’s been instructed to try and emulate. How quickly Herbert’s able to adopt Taylor’s style could play a factor in when the rookie will be able to take over the reins of the offense.
House Hunter: Jalen Ramsey
Though Jalen Ramsey’s contract status beyond this season remains up in the air, the three-time Pro Bowler made no bones about what he wants for his future in this week’s episode by spending time away from the practice field to look at houses.
Ramsey saw a home on a 31-acre lot that was staged to his specific needs, adorned with photos of his family, a customized $2 bill (which Ramsey carries for good luck) and select inspirational quotes in the carpark.
Though it’s unclear if Ramsey thought the place was his dream house, he stated plainly that his plans for the future include remaining in Los Angeles. He even called the day he was traded from Jacksonville to the Rams “probably one of the best days of my life.”
“I wouldn’t be wasting my time going to look at homes and stuff on my off days if I didn’t think I was gonna be here for the long-term, even after football,” Ramsey said. “I hope LA will be a forever home for me.”
Andrew Whitworth and Family On the Mend
Rams offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth is entering his 15th NFL season. His first go-around on Hard Knocks was as a Cincinnati Bengal back in 2009, when some of his current teammates were still in their pre-teen years. Archival footage showed Whitworth and Chad Johnson discussing Johnson’s new catchphrase, “kiss the baby.”
In this week’s episode, Whitworth and his wife, Melissa, revealed that they and their four children all contracted COVID-19. Melissa’s parents also tested positive—and her father was even hospitalized for five days—though all are home and in good health now.
No Preseason Means Slim Pickings for Rookies
Chargers running back Austin Ekeler went undrafted in 2017 out of Western State Colorado. He made the team as a rookie in large part due to his preseason performance, in which he stood out as a versatile playmaker. With the 2020 preseason canceled, that leaves scarce opportunities for rookies to make an impression on the coaching staff.
Among this year’s group of undrafted rookies is Chargers running back Darius Bradwell, who arrived at camp weighing 253 pounds after playing at 235 at Tulane. The weight gain drew the ire of Lynn, who vowed to get the most out of Bradwell’s potential.
After one practice, Bradwell spent extra time with strength coach John Lott on conditioning drills, with Lott offering both philosophical and practical about the importance of Bradwell sticking to his diet while away from team facilities: “What you do in the dark shines in the light,” Lott said. “Don’t be sneaking tacos on me.”
Don’t be unreasonable, coach.
- Chargers offensive quality control assistant Seth Ryan, son of former Jets and Bills coach Rex Ryan, was sent home for quarantine after receiving a positive COVID-19 test. Less than two days later, it was revealed the test was a false positive, and Ryan was able to return. “I’m saying, ‘What kind of scam is Seth running here just to get a couple days off of work?'” Lynn said in a phone call with Ryan. Hell, you could have just came and told me, Seth!”
- Jared Goff’s backyard setup is not bad:
- Rams coach Sean McVay offered something of a mea culpa for his performance in the first Hard Knocks episode, in which he took to his backyard pool to show off his dog’s tricks. “I apologize for my poor judgment,” McVay said, “in taking my shirt off on Hard Knocks.” As McVay might say to his players: No more mental errors, coach.