Before we dive into the 2018 regular season, here is a recap of the season finale of Hard Knocks from Tuesday night.
Everything we learned from the season finale of #HardKnocks
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) September 5, 2018
The breaking news involving Mychal Kendricks kicked off the episode. The now former Browns linebacker is facing federal charges for insider trading. The news came as a surprise. Camera crews caught offensive coordinator Todd Haley in a conversation with general manager John Dorsey. Haley asks if Kendricks is going to jail. Players also discuss the Kendricks charges.
After the show open airs, Jackson meets with the team to announce that Kendricks will be released. In episode two you saw Jackson mention to the team about having a mulligan. In the case of Kendricks there are no mulligans. He is facing serious charges. The Browns made the correct decision to cut him that day.
If you have watched the Hard Knocks series in the past, the season finale focuses a lot of time to players who are on the bubble for making the 53-man roster. Season 13 is no different. The Hard Knocks crew really spends a lot of time on players they have featured throughout the series.
— NFL (@NFL) September 5, 2018
Cajuste is featured first. We see him first in practice continuing to work on his blocking and catching passes. Next we catch Cajuste, no pun intended, in a meeting with senior offensive assistant Al Saunders.
Dorsey and head coach Hue Jackson meet to discuss the improvements Cajuste has made during the preseason. It ultimately won’t lead to a roster spot, but making the transition from a college wide receiver to an NFL tight end isn’t easy.
Now let’s move on to Orchard. The defensive end has struggled up until the preseason finale against the Detroit Lions. Orchard even spends extra time after practice working with Myles Garrett on improving his skills.
Speaking of the Lions game, Orchard, Cajuste and Nassib are featured heavily during the game. A crew even goes to New York to show Cajuste’s father watching the game from home. He is disappointed that he can’t be in Detroit due to health issues.
It was an up and down game for Cajuste. He catches two passes in the game, including a 43-yard catch and run on the first snap from scrimmage. However, he misses some time after rolling both ankles on the same play. He is also penalized four time, mostly for holding penalties.
Orchard’s extra work with Garrett pays off against the Lions. Orchard gets good pressure on the Lions quarterbacks. In addition, Orchard makes perhaps the play of the preseason with his 64-yard interception return for a touchdown.
The second half features rookie quarterback Brogan Roback. Finally, the rookie from Eastern Michigan gets some playing time. It’s special to be playing at Ford Field against the Lions. He played his college ball at Eastern Michigan which is just outside Detroit. The Toledo native had his family and girlfriend in attendance since it’s a short drive north on I-75 from the ‘Glass City’ to the ‘Motor City.’
— Jim Reineking (@jimreineking) September 5, 2018
Roback struggles early. However, he throws a beautiful touchdown pass in the 4th quarter. The Hard Knocks crew shows his family and girlfriend’s reaction. Needless to say they are thrilled.
After the game it’s time to focus on the ‘Real Bad News’ as cuts begin. After we see the coaches in a meeting, the process of cutting the roster down to 53 begins.
Roback is featured first. Eliot Wolf calls the rookie quarterback to come to the facility. Roback meets with Wolf and then Jackson. Roback is released in the first round of cuts on Friday when the Browns get the roster down to 72 players.
Fast forward to Saturday, and it’s time for Cajuste to find out his fate. Wolf calls the tight end early on Saturday morning. After visiting the facility to meet with Wolf and Jackson an to say goodbye to teammates including David Njoku, Cajuste calls his dad. The conversation takes place at the same place where we saw Cajuste doing some meditation in a previous episode. Cajuste’s father first things his son has made the team. However Cajuste has to break the bad news. It is sad considering everything his father is going through, but they handle the news as professionals and pledge to remain positive.
David Cajuste and his dad have been a joy to watch during #HardKnocks.
— CHRIS TORELLO (@TorelloSports) September 5, 2018
On Sunday, more roster changes take place. Before those changes are announced, another announcement draws reaction from head coach Hue Jackson. He is surprised about the Oakland Raiders decision to trade Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears. The Browns are reportedly one of the teams interested in trading for the 2016 NFL defensive player of the year.
Hue Jackson reacts to the Bears overpaying Mack on #Hardknocks
TE Coach: “That’s QB Money” 😂 pic.twitter.com/0tAE8oliGv
— RaidersToVegas 🏴☠️ (@RaidersToVegas) September 5, 2018
Now its back to their roster cuts. Both Orchard and Nassib are released due to waiver claims. In addition, a surprise player is also cut, defensive tackle and Parma native Jamie Meder. All three are shown cleaning out their lockers. Nassib has a new home with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Orchard and Meder are still free agents. In all, 31 of the 53 players on the Browns roster are new. So that’s a turnover rate of 59 percent.
The season finale of Hard Knocks wraps up by showing a video chat between rookie Antonio Callaway and his friend, Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown. Josh Gordon talks to the media for the first time since returning to the team.
The Hard Knocks crew makes a terrific decision on how to end the season. Haley and Gregg Williams wrap up season 13. Haley gives a sarcastic good bye salute into the camera. Williams is shown in a film session telling his defensive lineman to get their testicles in the ‘C gap.’
Gregg Williams’ Hard Knocks swan song/curtain call/mic drop… pic.twitter.com/nyspcQXbPo
— JennaLaineESPN (@JennaLaineESPN) September 5, 2018
So that’s a wrap for the Browns as the featured team on Hard Knocks. It was a terrific series. 13 didn’t prove to be unlucky in regards to storylines for the HBO and NFL Films crew. If only Hard Knocks could be a season long production in addition to training camp. That would make for some interesting must watch tv.
Scott Piker is the Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage Browns. So follow him on twitter @ScottPikerSport