‘Hard Knocks: Cleveland Browns’ 1×05 Review: It’s The End of the Road As We Know It

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There’s something magical about training camp. Where everyone is in first place. Where no one has to contend with the potential and then reality of a win-less season. There’s hope. There’s belief. There’s Hard Knocks.

This season of Hard Knocks has been one of my favorites in recent history. Maybe that’s because it’s the Cleveland Browns. Maybe that’s because of Carl Nassib. Maybe that’s because of Moose Maybe that’s because this damn show made me care about a fourth string quarterback. It’s been five weeks of entertainment, excitement, optimism, and heartbreak all rolled into one.

On Hard Knocks’ season finale, the Browns closed the chapter on their training camp and preseason with the fourth and final (most meaningless) preseason game and roster cuts as they head into Sunday’s regular-season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The season finale of Hard Knocks is always the most painful. It’s the episode where the final cuts — or, in this case, all of the cuts — are made and those players that we’ve grown attached to have to have their hearts crushed as a camera films it. And damn it if Hard Knocks doesn’t bank on that emotional attachment. Even when it’s not your team, when you get to know these people you start to care. It’s a formula that American Idol perfected long ago.

Devon Cajuste, Nate Orchard, and Carl Nassib are the three players that have consistently been a focus of this show and my “Three Stars” list. There are some players you go into this expecting them to be cut — like Cajuste, however much it breaks my heart — and then there are some players you’re shocked by them being cut — like Nassib, who has found a second life with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

But the harsh reality of the NFL is that there are only 53 roster spots on 32 teams which equates to 1,696 players getting to live their dream playing on an NFL team. For the others that go through training camp and preseason and get their hearts broken, it sucks. But it’s not worthless. This is a business that keeps moving. There’s always another opportunity to get better. And sometimes another opportunity to make an NFL roster.

While Hard Knocks has been fun, I am so damn ready for the regular season at this point.

Bring. On. The. Football. That. Counts.

While Hard Knocks has been fun, I am so damn ready for the regular season at this point.

Bring. On. The. Football. That. Counts.


Three Stars


We got attached to Devon Cajuste and Nate Orchard…and ‘Hard Knocks’ and the Browns ripped our hearts out.

1. Devon Cajuste | Well, you have to give HBO credit for their ability to identify a story with an emotional anchor and deliver it full-stop to its audience. Because following Devon Cajuste through this journey has been one of the best stories to come out of Hard Knocks. He’s incredible hardworking, resilient, and his relationship with his father was something that sealed the deal when it came to relating to a football player. We got to see Devon’s father again in the finale — only this time he couldn’t make Devon’s final game because of his heart issue. Break my heart, why don’t you. His dad wanted him to hear their special whistle and know he was there for him, and that made me even more emotional. I really thought Cajuste could break the curse of feel-good stories to make this roster. Honestly. Seeing how his teammates and this franchise rallied around him was amazing. It’s a shame that his Browns journey had to come to an end, but, here’s hoping that this closed door opens another one. And if there’s one person that truly believes that, it’s Devon Cajuste.

2. Nate Orchard | What’s worse than a good guy with a good story? A good guy with a good story that has a family to support. That always gets me with any story. Nate Orchard has been with the Browns for three years, and from the looks of it he’s been a solid contributor that has always pushed the extra mile to accomplish his dreams and support his family. Getting to know Nate’s family, his wife and her magic cookies, and his beautiful children only made this more difficult. Especially in the preseason finale when he ran an interception back 60 yards for a touchdown — epic instrumental music and all! But like these other players, this isn’t something that halts a dream. In fact, it ushers it forward even more. Here’s hoping Orchard finds a roster and gets to keep living his dream.

3. Carl Nassib | Oh, my sweet reality television star that made this show epic beyond comparison. Carl Nassib was the star of Hard Knocks. So much so that he made my “Three Stars” list pretty much every week. His personality mixed with his dominant play made him someone that naturally drew your eye. His affinity for financial advice and Taylor Swift and his playful feud with Todd Haley highlighted one of the stronger personalities on the Browns. Nassib’s cut was surprising to say the least. Especially because he made the initial 53-man roster until the Browns added players off waivers. Nassib was professional and grateful for his opportunity with the Browns. And now, he’s taking his talents to Tampa Bay.


Everything You Need to Know About Episode 5


Hard Knocks will return next season with a new team and a new story.

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