The fourth episode of HBO's "Hard Knocks" was an anticipated one, because viewers knew they would get a live look at how an NFL trade goes down, as the weekend prior to the show the Miami Dolphins traded cornerback Vontae Davis to the Indianapolis Colts for a 2013 second-round draft pick and a conditional late round pick. The show of course, did not start with the trade.
The episode also will focus on the first round of NFL cuts when teams cutdown from 90 to 75 players. Tight end Will Yeatman is sitting in the hotel telling his current roommate about how sudden cuts are, noting when he was with the New England Patriots, he came back one day and his roommate was gone and all of his stuff just cleared out. Rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill also gets a dose of reality, noting one of the players suddenly gone from practice he had spoken with just the night before.
The show then shifts focus to veteran offensive lineman Eric Steinbach, who in last week's episode met with head coach Joe Philbin and was contemplating retirement. He took some time off and then returned to practice, hoping he'd come back rejuvenated and figure out if he still wanted to play. After getting plenty of repsall over the line in practice, he decided it was time to retire.
"I think it's tough to admit," Steinbach told the cameras. "If you're a competitor, an athlete, you never want to say it's your last go around. But... when you wake up every morning and you feel like shit for the first half of practice before you can even feel warmed up, it's tough."
The Dolphins coaches then gather to begin talking about how they're going to cut down the roster as they prepare for the third preseason game of the 2012 NFL preseason. The back end of roster starts feeling the pressure, knowing it could be their last chance to impress the Dolphins coaching staff.
As the team gets ready for a meeting, second-year running back Daniel Thomas was 15-minutes late for a lift, which prompted Joe Philbin to meet personally with the young player. Thomas was also late for the plane for the previous game and not in the proper dress code. Philbin explains that he doesn't want to have to fine players and they should be where they need to be where they need to be and tells Thomas that he's getting a bit "queasy" about him.
Ryan Tannehill, who earned the starting job in last week's episode, becomes the focus as the rookie still has a lot to learn in the NFL, including secret handshakes with his wide receivers. It a funny moment, the show moves to Tannehill and backup Matt Moore in the meeting room, where Tannehill explains he's still lost in "the whole divisions thing."
"I know our division, that's about it," Tannehill told Moore. Moore begins quizzing Tannehill on the divisions, shocked that he has no idea which teams are in which division.
"Wasn't a huge pro fan growing up, wasn't really loyal to one team," Tannehill told the cameras. "Don't really know the divisions, even really conferences. I know most of the conferences, but some of those I really have no clue. They don't make sense, you know? We're in the AFC East and we're in the friggin' bottom of the map. The directions don't make any sense to where the teams actually are."
Laughter breaks out as Tannehill guesses that the Kansas City Chiefs are in the NFC East. "How do you not know this?," Moore laughs as Tannehill tries to explain himself.
The show then turns to what most have been waiting for, the focus on cornerback Vontae Davis and the trade with the Colts. General manager Jim Ireland gets a text message from the Colts, asking if he's willing to deal Davis. Ireland sits in his office trying to figure out if Davis is in the team's long term plans, and if he's not they should take the trade.
As the team heads into the third preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons in a torrential downpour. The Dolphins running backs begin picking up some yards and when they're tackled, the offensive line begins picking them up off the pile, something the coaches harped on after the second preseason game. Even quarterback Ryan Tannehill gets in on the action, throwing a block for Reggie Bush, which prompts Jake Long to come over and tell him to just get out of the way.
Despite the fact that the Dolphins are moving between the 20's, the team is still struggling in the redzone as players struggle to hold on to the football and Tannehill is picked off on a poor throw.
With Vontae Davis on the trading block unbeknownst to him, looks like he's having a nice game, including picking off Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan in the redzone and returning it for a touchdown, but the play was wiped out by a pass interference call on Davis. Davis grabbed the wide receiver and just yanked him to the ground once again displaying the frustrating aspect of his game for the Dolphins.
After the game, the show moves to the most difficult part of watching a "Hard Knocks" series, the cuts. The team's cut man calls each of the players to meet with general manager Jeff Ireland, who informs each player why they're being released from the Miami Dolphins. Some of the players vent their frustration with not getting enough reps in games. Some players take it in stride and Ireland explains the practice squad is an option for some once final cuts are made.
The show gets a bit emotional when tight end Les Brown is informed of his release, as Ireland explains his decencies are in the area of his blocking and that's something Brown will need to work on to make it to an NFL roster, but praises his dedication and work ethic. Brown had been out of football for a while at 25 years old, but to make it as far as he did on the team is a feat unto itself. With meeting with his position coach, Brown is once again praised for his heart and hard work, as the coach advises him what he needs to do to improve at this level. Brown gets emotional talking to the camera when the realization of his release hits and he makes the rounds saying goodbye.
As the show comes to a close, it turns back to the trade of Vontae Davis. As the coaches meet to discuss the roster, they once again harp on how bad the interception play was for Davis, where he literally just threw the receiver to the ground in order to pick the ball off, calling it a "total lack of awareness." Ireland meets with the coaching staff to explain the coaches interest, noting the original offer was a fifth and sixth-round pick then moved to a third-round pick, and now the offer was at a second-round pick.
The coaches explain that Davis has been up and down, lacks awareness, and they wonder if they will ever get Davis to where he needs to be. Ireland gets on the phone with the Colts general manager Ryan Grigson to discuss the compensation to see how high the Colts are willing to go. The two sides wind up settling on a second-round pick and a conditional sixth-round pick.
Ireland meets with Davis to inform him of the trade, and Davis instantly wants to call his grandmother to inform her of the news. With Tropical Storm Isaac bearing down on south Florida, Ireland explains he's going to need to get on a plane to Indianapolis quickly. Ireland also explains to Davis that he's been way up and down in his time with the Dolphins and needs to flatten things out to improve as a player and become consistent.
Davis tries to find out what he was traded for, but Ireland gives him the poker face before Davis leaves.
As the show heads into the final episode next week, it will be interesting to see which bubble players make the cut.