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HBO 'Hard Knocks' Finale Recap: Miami Dolphins Head Into Regular Season

The HBO's "Hard Knocks" series featuring the Miami Dolphins has come to it's end, as the final episode breaks down the harsh reality of life in the NFL and just how tough it can be for many players.

May 4, 2012; Davie, FL, USA; dMiami Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin during rookie mini-camp practice at the Dolphins training facility. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE
May 4, 2012; Davie, FL, USA; dMiami Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin during rookie mini-camp practice at the Dolphins training facility. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

The finale of "Hard Knocks" on HBO opens up in the aftermath of Hurricane Isaac, which skirted around Miami, Fla. but still left some bad rainstorms. Fittingly enough, show transitions from the aftermath of the storms to the blowback of the Vontae Davis trade. The Dolphins traded Davis to the Indianapolis Colts for a second-round and late-round pick, as you get shots of local media getting player reactions to the trade.

A storm of another sort happens as the show shifts to practice, with left tackle Jake Long going to the ground clutching his knee. Long tells the trainers he got rolled up on, but Kevin O'Neill gives coach Joe Philbin and offensive coordinator Mike Sherman some good news, informing Philblin that Long has a grade 1 MCL sprain and should be ready to go for Week 1 of the regular season.

The focus then turns of a position the Dolphins have struggled at all offseason, wide receiver. The focus turns to second-year receiver Clyde Gates, who has world class speed but can't seem to translate it to the football field. Gates has his "swagger" on the practice field, but Philbin quips to some other coaches Gates should just worry about putting on his jersey, running some routes, and catching the football. "He's a neophyte as a route runner," Philbin said to Sherman while watching film. In talking with general manager Jeff Ireland, Philbin expresses that some of the coaches question if Gates is a football player or just a really fast guy.

Moving from the wide receivers, the Dolphins are trying to figure out what to do about their quarterback situation. They've already names first-round pick Ryan Tannehill the starter, but what to do with the depth chart after that is the question. As it stands, Matt Moore is the primary back up and David Garrard would be the third string quarterback, but as Joe Philbin notes to Jeff Ireland in a meeting, Garrard can't even play and wouldn't even travel to Houston to take on the Texans. Complicating matters as well is the fact that the front office seems pleased with the development of second-year undrafted Pat Devlin and don't want to risk losing him on waivers, but it's hard to justify keeping four quarterbacks on the roster. Philbin seems very high on Devlin however, to the point where the other quarterbacks have taken notice and make sure to rib on Devlin for it.

Another player who's become a favorite of coaches is fullback Javorskie Lane, who was out of football the past three seasons and had ballooned up to 300 pounds during his final season at Texas A&M under Mike Sherman. Sherman told Lane that at 300 pounds, he wasn't going to play in the NFL but if he ever got his weight down to give Sherman a call. Obviously Lane put the work in and got his weight down, and has been impressing the Dolphins coaches. "Butterball," as Philbin affectionately calls Lane, has impressed his coaches with his hard work and ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, but didn't help himself when he showed up late to an offensive meeting and got an ear full from his former college coach.

When the Dolphins get into their final preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys, the Dolphins offense once again is a struggle and cannot get much done. Outside of another case of Javorskie Lane catching a pass and running over a defender, the Dolphins offense can't get much done and draws the ire of Joe Philbin at halftime as he tells the team it's an embarrassment. The second half is sparked when Pat Devlin comes into the game as Devlin and wide receiver Rishard Matthews develop a bit of a rapport as Miami drives for a touchdown.

Following the end of the preseason, in which the Dolphins lost all four games, the team plan backed into another plane and caused a long delay. The players wound up having to change planes that could house the entire team and staff.

Of course, what would the finale of "Hard Knocks" be without another feature on Chad Johnson, who was released by the Dolphins in the second episode of the show. We get glimpse of Johnson training on the beach and boxing, as he's trying to make his way back into the NFL, constantly noting how much he messed things up for himself.

And finally the gut wrenching part of the show as you watch players wait for their phones to ring on final cut day. The "reapers" as Marlon Moore calls them, wait by the front door to escort players to Jeff Ireland to be informed they're being released from the team. Even Clyde Gates speed couldn't save him from the reapers, as Gates is informed he's being released as Ireland expresses his fear another team will develop him where the dolphins couldn't. As for the rest of the receivers, Chris "7-11" Hogan didn't make the final roster but the team wanted to add him to their practice squad to further develop him.

The finale ends with an epilogue, so to speak, on quarterback David Garrard as he tries to impress the coaching staff enough to keep him on the final roster. Initially the Dolphins carry four quarterbacks on their final 53 man roster, but doing as much creates some uneasiness with quarterbacks not named Tannehill. Unfortunately for Garrard, the show ends with Garrard cleaning out his locker as he's once again released on the Tuesday before the start of the regular season.

Photographs by, thelastminute, turtlemom nancy , fesek, kthypryn, justinwright, sue_elias, pointnshoot, and scrapstothefuture used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.