Vontae Davis and Les Brown were the first to get a proper Hard Knocks flogging.
But in Tuesday’s episode, the Wheel of Pain stopped on Michael Egnew and Roberto Wallace, with HBO’s popular program highlighting each player’s warts — in high definition.
“Terrible, terrible,” offensive coordinator Mike Sherman was shown scolding Egnew in front of seemingly the entire offense. “I would cut you today if I was the general manager. I would cut you.”
As for Wallace, the promising but raw wide receiver? There’s a nickname chuckling coaches gave him during a private film session: Ankle Weights Wallace. As in, he’s too slow to get open.
The next morning, Wallace and Egnew, a rookie tight end selected in the third round, had to answer for their shortcomings. Neither seemed particularly pleased to do so.
“Obviously, they pointed out all of the negatives, but it’s part of the show,” Wallace said, nonplussed. “People like drama more than anything. They’re going to try to get both extremes.”
Egnew said: “I guarantee you, any player here can tell you about the experience. It’s one of those things that happens a lot.”
Egnew said he didn’t watch the episode and shut his phone off before it began — likely because the he had an idea of the verbal beating he was going to take. The Dolphins had hoped the 6-5, 251-pounder from Missouri would emerge as a red-zone threat. Egnew has been largely invisible in practice and the first preseason game. Hard Knocks showed why — he often doesn’t know his assignments, resulting in his banishment to the fourth string.
Wallace has worked with the first team this week after a breakout performance in the preseason opener. He showed plenty of separation when burning Nolan Carroll on a go route Wednesday, catching a pass from Ryan Tannehill in stride with a clear path to the end zone.
“Everybody’s out here watching practice, and they’ve seen the progress,” said Wallace, who has a chance to start this Friday’s game in Carolina after Chad Johnson’s post-arrest exit.
The national, albeit temporary, embarrassment is an unavoidable side effect of the Hard Knocks experience. Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said Wednesday the relationship his staff has built with the players is stronger than any short-term humiliation.
Yet he realizes this: Players aren’t the only ones opened up to scrutiny by Hard Knocks. Philbin, a career assistant, was a virtual unknown nationally before last week’s premiere, and is now known as the guy who cut Johnson in a painfully uncomfortable exchange.
Brian Billick, the former Ravens coach who’s now an analyst for Fox Sports and NFL Network, was the first to go through a Hard Knocks training camp. But his 2001 team — coming off a Super Bowl championship with a media-savvy coach — was far different than this one.
“Doing it in your first year as a coach, Joe Philbin seems uncomfortable with it, which I can certainly understand,” Billick said. “I don’t know he’s a willing participant. He said that it was his decision, but I get the sense he feels like he’s being interviewed.”
Interviewed is way better than berated. Egnew and Wallace can attest to that.• Tuesday’s premiere of Hard Knocks’ second episode was viewed by 984,000 viewers — the show’s second most-watched episode since 2002.