'Hard Knocks' Episode 2 recap: Brian Cushing a compelling bully

Hard Knocks has itself a proper villain.

His name is Brian Cushing and he spent the majority of screen time in Tuesday's episode acting like the antagonist in a 80s teen comedy. Cushing is Billy Zabka, 31 gallons of sentient testosterone intent on sweeping the leg of every puny running back who dares to challenge him.

In Episode 2 it was poor Alfred Blue, who just wants America to take him seriously as Arian Foster's replacement. That won't be easy after watching Cushing taunt, tease and manhandle Blue in a one-on-one blocking drill.

"The f--- wrong with Cush?" Blue asks no one in particular after one beatdown. "Cush crazy as hell."

Blue unwittingly sealed his fate when he lightly shoved Cushing after one rep. The linebacker -- looking healthy and spry -- wasn't satisfied after a series of one-sided battles, calling Blue out for a final round. The shot of Blue on the sideline as Cushing goads him is priceless -- it's the look of a man being called to his own execution. Sure enough, Cushing bull rushes Blue and slams the back into a blocking dummy acting as the quarterback.

"Don't ever push me extra like that," a still-amped Cushing tells Jadeveon Clowney, just trying to mind his business on the sideline. "First of all, you're not going to block me. Second of all, you don't want to fight me. Third of all (gears grinding ... searching ... spinning beach ball) ... I'm the man."

There's a 96 percent chance Brian Cushinglifted tables and spilled lunches on the math club at USC.

Cushing is introduced Tuesday via a snippet of conversation with wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. This is the second illuminating interplay between the pair in as many weeks. (See: The Jerry Rice Conundrum in Episode 1.)

Seriously though, who talks like this!?! It reads like an audition for the Evil Jock role in Can't Hardly Wait 2: Still Waitin'. Later, we get to see Cushing's softer side at home with his wife and two little boys. This I could have done without. Did we ever see a Zabka character helping his little brother with homework? Unloading groceries for his elderly neighbor? Voting on election day? Don't muddle the narrative, Hard Knocks.

Cushing clearly wants to be the evolutionary Bill Romanowski -- a bully equal parts revolting and magnetic. So why don't we let him?

Elsewhere ...

» One of my goals of this season is to deduce whether J.J. Watt's teammates actually like him. The jury is out, though he does seem to have hit it off with Vince Wilfork. The two giants -- who weigh a combined 614 pounds -- bond over a shared opinion of breakfast as the greatest of all meals. Watt: "I love breakfast." Vince: (wistful) "Breakfast is the best."

» We've all grown accustomed to pro athletes using tired cliches in interviews, but who knew they were actually being spoonfed some of their non-answers from their coaches? Bill O'Brien shows he hasn't fallen far from the Belichick coaching tree during a team meeting on media interaction.

"If you're asked a question, and you really don't understand the question or don't want to answer the question, here's some suggestions -- especially to the rookies -- you can always say these things," O'Brien begins. "'I'm working hard.' 'I'm trying to be a good teammate.' 'I'm trying to go out there every day and do my job.' 'I'm taking it one day at a time.'

O'Brien proceeds to roleplay with the younger Texans, the coach playing the part of "Johnny Smith from the Houston Chronicle." It was ridiculous and odd and almost certainly a play to the cameras, but couldn't you easily picture The Hooded One doing the same thing?

» File "Trip To Mall To Browse For Infant Girl Clothing" under Things That Only Happen When Hard Knocks Cameras Are Following You.

»DeAndre Hopkins -- who is awesome -- wants to purchase a Yorkie to take to the club in his man purse. He views this as "European." Hopkins asks a teammate what he'd think if he went through with the plan. "I would delete your number."

» Clowney got his own segment, and we're given a glimpse into his ongoing rehab following microfracture surgery. As he spoke, I was reminded of how little we've heard from the former No. 1 pick since he got hurt. "There's days I come in just like, 'Man I really don't feel like doing this thing.' ... It's hurting me some nights, but you gotta come through and push through it because I want to come back and be just as dominant as I was before I left."

»Ryan Mallett has some serious swagger to him. He offers up some NFL Blitz!-level celebration gestures after long completions in practice. After he runs for a score on a QB draw -- again, in practice -- he irks his teammates on defense by dunking the ball over the cross bar. One teammate suggests "somebody knock his ass in half" if he attempts another run in his red no-contact jersey.

» I'm sure there are grosser things than watching bubbles of sweat rise from Vince Wilfork's drenched cleats. I mean, there has to be. I just can't think of anything.

»"Rick Ross. Wooooooo!" -- Bill O'Brien, hip hop fanatic, certified Cool Dad

» Watt tells teammates that he wears a jock strap because "there's a lot going on down there." Just in case you were curious.

» The rookie haircut interlude remains a time-tested and beloved part of every Hard Knocks season.

»After Cushing's rant against Starbucks, we got this beauty from longtime Hard Knocks narrator Liev Schreiber: "It's not surprising that the linebacker isn't into coffee. (pause for effect) He has no filter."

If you listen closely, you can almost hear the self-satified grin stretching across Ray Donovan's mug.

» Below you'll find a Spotify playlist that will serve as the soundtrack of Season 10 of Hard Knocks. We'll populate the list as the season goes along. The Muddy Waters song is fire.

HBO will air an encore presentation of Episode 2 on Wednesday at 11 p.m. ET. Follow Dan Hanzus on Twitter @DanHanzus.

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