HBO’s NFL franchise “Hard Knocks” debuted its 2022 season on Aug. 9 with the Detroit Lions and their volcanic coach Dan Campbell, who’s a show in himself, spewing great stuff like, “the hyenas better get out of the way.” Campbell, by the way, is also wearing a black t-shirt during the season 19’s first episode. The 313 emblazed on it is Detroit’s area code that also happens to match their 2021 record.
For Eagles’ fans, the series holds specific intrigue, considering it gives them a behind-the-curtain peek at the enemy Lions, who will be hosting the Eagles at Ford Field on Sept. 11 to kick off Philadelphia’s 2022 season.
There is also something else that’s immediately interesting in the “Hard Knocks” opener: The Lions were hitting and tackling to the ground in the series debut. The Eagles have hardly done any hitting.
What’s also of significance is the Lions, as of Wednesday, Aug. 10, have listed seven players injured during training camp, while the Eagles have more than double that, at 16. Most recently, key players Jason Kelce, the Eagles’ invaluable center who calls out their blocking adjustments, underwent elbow surgery on Tuesday, Aug. 9, though is expected back by the Lions’ season opener, though no certain timetable has been placed on his recovery (It needs to be noted from past arthroscopic elbow surgeries, the timetable is around two to four weeks, giving Kelce plenty of time to recover and start in the opener; Kelce also holds a 122-game consecutive starting streak that goes back to 2014 when he was out with a sports hernia). On Wednesday, Aug. 10, Eagles’ coach Nick Sirianni declared starting receiver DeVonta Smith day-to-day with a groin injury.
Under Sirianni, you can easily imagine the Eagles’ training camp being run with Mr. Softy ice cream music playing in the background, while Campbell’s camp, led by a vested NFL veteran coaching staff who almost all have 10 or more years of NFL experience combined either coaching or playing, going by nasty, grunge tunes.
It is certainly a stark contrast in approaches that will eventually play out on September 11.
The Lions do need the work. They finished last in allowing broken tackles.
As USA Today’s LionsWire pointed out, “The Lions were runaway leaders in allowing broken tackles last season, according to NFL Inside Edge’s data mining. Detroit allowed 75 broken tackles, six more than the next-worst tackling team, the Atlanta Falcons.”
Boxers spar to ready for a fight. Baseball players hit in a batting cage. But there is nothing a football player can do to hone their tackling skills than to tackle live.
The Eagles are clearly the better team. The Lions are horrible.
Nonetheless the question looms: What team will have their legs in the fourth quarter and what team won’t on Sunday, September 11.
It may help to answer whose approach is better.
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area who has written feature stories for SI.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com, MLB.com, Deadspin and The Philadelphia Daily News. In 2006, he was nominated for an Emmy Award for a special project piece for ESPN.com called “Love at First Beep.” He is most noted for his award-winning ESPN.com feature on high school wrestler A.J. Detwiler in February 2006, which appeared on SportsCenter. In 2015, he was elected president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.