The NFL and HBO will debut the first episode of Hard Knocks' new in-season format on Wednesday evening. Centered around the Indianapolis Colts, the cameras will be bright and ever-present as the Colts attempt to navigate through the trials and tribulations of an NFL campaign.
For 16 seasons and counting, Hard Knocks has provided audiences with the ultimate peek behind the curtain. The reality sports documentary is truly unique in its operation, and the launch of an in-season format will only help the groundbreaking series up the ante.
The following storylines should provide entertainment in abundance.
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN CARSON WENTZ AND FRANK REICH
General manager Chris Ballard executed one of the largest blockbuster trades this past offseason when he acquired quarterback Carson Wentz in exchange for a 2021 third-round pick and a 2022 conditional second-round pick that will become a first-round selection should Wentz reach certain performance bonuses.
The deal was made with the hope of reviving Wentz's career after things went sour for him in Philadelphia. Wentz worked closely with Colts head coach Frank Reich in 2016-17 when Reich served as the Eagles' offensive coordinator while overseeing Wentz' explosive leap in his second professional season. Wentz also had experience working with Colts senior offensive assistant Press Taylor, who served in a variety of offensive coaching roles throughout Wentz's tenure in Philadelphia.
Acquiring Wentz was a bold move for a team that found themselves in quarterback limbo following the retirement of Philip Rivers. It hasn't been perfect, but Wentz has been in rather fine form throughout his first 10 appearances in Indianapolis, throwing for a healthy 17 touchdowns and just three interceptions. HBO’s new in-season format should provide us an in-depth look at how Reich and staff worked toward reviving Wentz's career.
THE MAN BEHIND THE MANIAC: DARIUS LEONARD
Colts linebacker Darius Leonard has been one of the league's most productive defenders since entering the league via the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Now midway through his fourth professional campaign, Leonard has compiled an astounding 426 tackles, 15 sacks, 27 passes defended, and nine interceptions.
Athletes are also human beings. It may sound like a straightforward sentiment, but it's often forgotten by demanding fan bases around the nation. Leonard's haunting demeanor and infectious energy have earned him the nickname "Maniac" on the field. When spending time away from the game, he plays a different character altogether. He's a loving hands-on father to a young daughter. The latest trailer for Wednesday's debut episode largely focuses on Leonard's ability to find the perfect work-life balance. We're especially intrigued to learn more about one of the most fascinating young players in all of football.
LOCKER ROOM’S REACTION TO WEEK 5 LOSS
One of the most exciting aspects of debuting a new in-season format will be the opportunity to gauge the players’ live reactions to a haunting defeat. Unfortunately for the Colts, they experienced a heartbreaker back in Week 5 that surely served as a difficult lesson. Despite nursing a healthy 22-9 lead entering the fourth quarter of a primetime contest against Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens, the Colts were outscored 16-3 in the final quarter and ultimately lost the game in overtime.
The Colts would rebound in rather impressive fashion, blowing out the Houston Texans 31-3 in their follow-up contest. How the locker room overcame that adversity should lead to an enthralling piece of television. All signs point to Indianapolis possessing a strong and united locker room, but watching them go through the motions should be captivating nonetheless.