By Craig Ellenport | Sept. 5, 2018
Episode 5 of “Hard Knocks: Training Camp With the Cleveland Browns” — the season finale — premiered Tuesday night on HBO. Head Coach Ranking is watching from the coaches’ perspective. Each week after “Hard Knocks” airs, we’ve offered our key takeaways.
1) Playing the market
Is it just us, or was it kinda funny that right after the episode led with news of LB Mychal Kendricks being released after he was arrested for insider trading, we hear assistant coach Al Saunders tell tight end Devon Cajuste – who is on the bubble for a roster spot – that impressing the coaches is like being a stock on the rise?
Saunders tells Cajuste that the most important thing the coaches will see is the most recent thing you do. And it’s pretty prophetic. Cajuste opens the preseason game against Detroit like a house on fire … but then struggles late, including a key holding penalty in the red zone. By the end of the episode, Cajuste is one of the team’s cuts.
2) Working man
“I’ve never had a real job my whole life,” said veteran offensive line coach Bob Wylie. Sounds cute, but hopefully “Hard Knocks” has helped fans see that coaching in the NFL is actually a pretty tough job.
3) Successful audition?
With four quarterbacks on the roster – including two veterans and the No. 1 overall draft pick – it really wasn’t a question that undrafted free agent QB Brogan Roback was destined to be cut. But he did have his moment in the sun, throwing his first NFL touchdown pass in the preseason win over the Lions.
“You handled it the right way and everyone was really impressed with you,” head coach Hue Jackson told him. “You need to walk out of here proud of what you did.”
Keep in mind it wasn’t the Browns coaches and scouts who Roback needed to impress. Scouts from around the league will be evaluating guys like Roback to see if he’s worth a practice squad spot on their team.
4) Cut by a Wolf
In other seasons of “Hard Knocks,” players who get cut hear it from the head coach directly. Tuesday night, we saw assistant general manager Eliot Wolf give them the news before they meet with Jackson. Many fans probably don’t know that Wolf, who got plenty of air time, is the son of Hall of Fame GM Ron Wolf.
5) Was this a surprise?
In what our narrator describes as the final roster decision of camp, Jackson meets with top pick Baker Mayfield and veteran backup QB Drew Stanton together to tell them that Mayfield will be the No. 2 QB behind Tyrod Taylor and Stanton will be the No. 3.
Really? That wasn’t already known by just about everybody? Jackson deserves credit for sticking to his guns and making sure there was no question that Taylor is the starter. But if Mayfield wasn’t the primary backup, there might have been an uprising in Cleveland. If HBO thought the “final roster decision” was supposed to be dramatic, well, it was not.