It's rare the sequel is better than the original but when it comes to Hard Knocks (the Buccaneer gift that keeps on giving) the sequels routinely outshine the show's previous offerings.
For my money, while the first two Bucs' HBO installments were great, the third was certainly the most charming.
The biggest surprise was all of those camp fights between the Jaguars weren't featured, which made be believe that either they had more than enough good material or the team or the league discouraged the show featuring all the physicality?
Despite that strange omission and even stranger dance routine by Bucs defensive tackle Chris Baker with a tree, there were many memorable scenes--so here are my top five Hard Knocks moments where we sadly only have two episodes left.....
(1) FLEMING'S INJURY: In this episode you didn't have the high drama of cutting Roberto Aguayo but the story of the rise and then fall of rookie defensive back Maurice Fleming is what really makes this show truly special.
Hard Knocks gets full access and they take full advantage as we both saw and amazingly heard Flemings incredible up and down ride in the Bucs' second preseason game.
We saw Fleming's reaction to getting hurt versus the Jaguars to him making a big fourth quarter to play and then being told by the doctors he was hurt and finally by Dirk Koetter that he was going to be cut loose because of the injury.
This was fascinating television, the kind you can only get on this show.
(2) DIRK & JAMEIS: One thing we knew we'd see out of this show the moment it happened was Dirk Koetter laying into his quarterback after Winston's ill advised throw on the seat of his pants against the Jaguars.
Entering their fourth season together, these two have build quite the brutally honest relationship where Koetter didn't hold back questioning why after having a great game, Winston would make such a bonehead throw?
Questioning is putting it mild as Koetter laid into his quarterback saying among other things, " You (expletive, expletive) me? Why you got to do that? You're playing a great game and then your greed take over," The Bucs Head Coach screamed.
"You can't do that, Ever ever ever."
We knew the Koetter tirade was coming and it lived up to the hype.
(3) MARTIN'S MOMENTS: Hard Knocks shines every week by going outside the lines, something they did well with many players including running back Doug Martin.
Martin talked candidly about bouncing back after his battles with substance abuse last season but beyond that you saw him skateboarding around his neighborhood giving us a side of him we've never seen before. These kinds of scenes bring in the non football fan as well--another smart move by this show.
(4) MUSICAL MARPET: Bucs Center Ali Marpet is a versatile man making the switch from guard to center this season but we didn't know the half of how broad his range was.
Hard Knocks cameras took us from Doug Martin's Neighborhood to Marpet's happy place along the water in Tampa where to get away ,he both reads and of all things---plays the ukulele.
Marpet didn't just play, he was impressive showing his sensitive side to his newfound HBO audience. While you and I enjoyed seeing that, I asked Marpet about it after practice and he said he still hasn't seen the episode yet.
It's on much too late for most players.
(5) WORDS OF WISDOM: No doubt Winston is a great leader but he's still learning too and some tactics work better than others. While it's good to see the veterans on this team at times show their leader what works and what doesn't.
While I applaud Winston's intentions, his long "Bucs Rap" before the Jaguars game to motivate his offense was long winded and seemed a bit forced unlike many of his methods which come across natural.
I thought maybe it was just me when later in the show, Winston's backup Ryan Fitzpatrick was seen telling him while he liked the gesture, told Winston it was too long too.
Like his verbal assault from Koetter, Winston took his teammate's suggestion in stride as well, which was good to see.