HBO's going to show us the Arizona Cardinals imploding in real time

HBO's going to show us the Arizona Cardinals imploding in real time

New 'Hard Knocks In Season' to feature Kyler Murray, DeAndre Hopkins and all the desert drama

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HBO’s “Hard Knocks,” covering the preseason and training camps, can step aside as HBO’s premier network docuseries. “Hard Knocks In Season” is where the true drama lies. In training camp, everyone is upbeat and pollyannaish. Emotions are more volatile during the season when expectations ram into reality, and reality smacks with a concussive blow. The network announced Monday that the Arizona Cardinals are HBO’s pick for the second annual “Hard Knocks In Season.”

If “Hard Knocks” is where we can witness the labor pains of an NFL franchise’s season, “Hard Knocks In Season” is the life cycle. We’ll either witness the Cardinals flourishing, or watch them spiral into the abyss. The NFL and HBO couldn’t have made a more subversive decision than selecting the Cardinals. Last season, the Indianapolis Colts were the inaugural Hard Knocks in-season team and they wilted under pressure. Carson Wentz’s collapse made for a juicy drama, but the Cardinals are a brined ribeye. They’re practically ready to rip each other limb-from-limb if they don’t build on last season’s 11-6 record, finish strong, and leap forward into prime contender status. No franchise is more on the precipice of imploding than this one. Here are just a few of the pressure points the HBO crew needs to focus on when the series starts filming in November.

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Kyler Murray

Kyler Murray

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A notoriously low-profile quarterback whose leadership has been questioned since Arizona was shellacked in their playoff debut against the Los Angeles Rams. What if Murray doesn’t get the contract extension he is pining for? That locker room could be a tinderbox, especially in one of the toughest divisions in football. Murray passed on attending Arizona’s OTAs this week and while his fifth-year option will pay $29.7 million, he is seeking somewhere in the neighborhood of $50 million.

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DeAndre Hopkins

DeAndre Hopkins

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His return from a six-game PED suspension will significantly impact the Cardinals’ offense. Hollywood Brown and Ronald Moore will have to step aside once Hopkins settles back into the Cardinals offense. Wide receivers have fragile egos and if the Cardinals are thriving without Hopkins, friction could develop while he’s being reintegrated.

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Kliff Kingsbury

Kliff Kingsbury

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The GQ head coach is made for TV. He’s not as accomplished as his branding, or contract extension would suggest he is, but rather the poor man’s Ryan Gosling (which I guess is whoever TV’s Ryan Gosling is) has milked his reputation for all its worth. However, if the Cardinals stumble down the stretch again, he might get exposed for the fraud that he is. The second half of the season is typically when the Cardinals have stunk. Since Kingsbury was hired in 2019, Arizona has lost 18 of 26 games after Week 7.

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J.J. Watt

J.J. Watt

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The D-lineman’s inevitable mid-season injury will be a jolt to the Cardinals defense. It’s likely to happen. He’s one of the finest pass rushers of this generation, but injuries have turned him into a glorified TED talker in the second half of the season.

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Christmas Day

Christmas Day

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Week 16 against the Bucs (on Christmas) will be an essential benchmark for where the Cardinals season is trending. We’ll either see teams in a cheery holiday mood or the locker room will be the manifestation of a lump of coal. We might even catch a hint of assistant coaches interviewing for their next jobs.

The Cardinals locker room is a toxic environment that could go Chernobyl and HBO intruding in the middle of the season is a right place, right time situation. HBO knows drama and the Cardinals are bound to provide it in abundance.

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