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Field of ‘Hard Knocks’ Contenders Beginning to Thin

As the hype for a new NFL season continues to build, so does the anticipation for a new edition of HBO’s acclaimed Hard Knocks series. An intimate and unparalleled look into an organisation’s players and coaches, the subject of the program’s tenth season has, to date, remained undetermined. But with training camp rapidly nearing, top contenders are starting to become more apparent.

tempHardKnocks_080414_0017--nfl_mezz_1280_1024The team that has the best shot of appearing on the show still remains the stuff of the rumour mill.  NFL Insider Gil Brandt recently tweeted that the Redskins may have the inside track, in spite of media speculation that Washington is not interested. The ‘Skins appearance could make for fascinating television, giving an inside look at the supposed rift between Robert Griffin III and his coaching staff that so doomed the team last year.

Meanwhile, other top candidates like the Cleveland Browns and Buffalo Bills are falling by the wayside. While neither team seems particularly keen to feature this season, the Browns seem especially distant because of Johnny Manziel’s rehabilitation over the offseason. The Bills, meanwhile, have robbed fans of once again seeing Rex Ryan on the small screen, because teams with a brand new head coach are exempt from forced participation.

The Houston Texans, then, could be the only viable option left. The team made a cameo appearance last season during a joint practice with the Atlanta Falcons. The highlight was undeniably a Brock Lesnar-esque slow motion entrance onto the field for one J.J. Watt, who was only missing some well-timed pyro and a smug Paul Heyman by his side.

Watt and his defensive cohort – including former number one pick Jadeveon Clowney and talented rookie Benardrick McKinney – would be reason enough to tune in each week, but the Texans also ‘boast’ arguably the most unpredictable quarterback competition of this NFL offseason. Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett, both former apprentices under Tom Brady in New England, will tussle with young Tom Savage in a triple threat match that may not declare a winner until opening week.

Teams cannot be forced to appear if they have hired a new head coach, made the playoffs in the last two seasons or have featured in a previous season. The Browns, Buccaneers, Giants, Jaguars, Rams, Redskins, Texans, Titans and Vikings are the nine teams that qualify per these rules. An announcement on which team has been selected is typically made sometime in June.

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