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'Hard Knocks' Episode 3 recap: War of attrition

"Can't do much (expletive) worse than that."

T.J. Yates sat stunned on the visiting bench in Houston, perhaps aware he just cost himself a job.

Yates will always be the first quarterback to start a playoff win in Houston Texans history. Texans fans will never forget him, surprisingly treating him like a returning hero on Tuesday's Hard Knocks episode during Yates' first visit in a Falcons uniform.

Knowing Yates' backstory -- and the work he's put in to catch up learning the Falcons offense -- made his meltdown against the Texans much more painful to watch. This is what Hard Knocks does so well.

On Saturday night, Yates' two interceptions returned for a touchdown were just forgettable footnotes to another forgettable preseason game. Watching it play out behind the scenes, we understood how crushing it was for Yates. He ultimately sat alone on the bench, as if his struggles were contagious.

These setbacks peppered Tuesday's show, the kind of daily hurdles that make up life in the NFL for most players. Here's what else stuck out:

  1. We'll keep saying it every week: Bryan Cox needs his own show. After showing his 30-year-old daughter to the team, one player asks how old Cox is.

"46," he says. "I told you I started (expletiving) when I was 10."

  1. The player who started following Cox's daughter on Instagram clearly has a death wish.
  1. Mike Tice is the assistant coach this season who wants to use the show to become a head coach. I really wish cameras were following him when he walked straight into a tree and messed up his head.
  1. Kroy Biermann's malaise could be nothing, or it could be a veteran coming to terms with the fact that he's not the same player coming off a serious injury.
  1. Geraldo "Amsterdam" Boldewijn is a delight. More of him, please. Receivers coach Terry Robiskie asks what Boldewijn is doing on one play.

"I don't know," he responds honestly to laughter. "I (expletived) up."

  1. Matt Ryan can't tell a joke.
  1. It is difficult to take pads off. And to rap.
  1. Harry Douglas has the ugliest, most effective bowling form I've ever seen.
  1. Another show idea: Thirty minutes of Julio Jones and J.J. Watt practicing football. Jones' explosion and dominance throughout practices is hypnotic whether he's facing his teammates or the Texans. He moves differently than everyone else.

Watt is the rare NFL player who makes other pros marvel at his size (even in other languages). Watt enters the show like a superhero and then proceeds to school rookie Jake Matthews. Later, Watt tells Mike Smith that Matthews is going to be good someday, calling him the Falcons' "little right tackle." Matthews is 6' 5'' and 305 pounds.

  1. The episode begins with a disgusting ACL surgery and ends with Falcons left tackle Sam Baker refusing to believe he's torn his patella tendon. The NFL season is a battle against attrition. Hard Knocks is one of the only places that takes the time to remember the guys who don't make it.

Episode three of Hard Knocks will be shown again Wednesday at 11 p.m. ET on HBO.

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