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'Hard Knocks' Episode 4 Review: Falcons get a reality check

By Will Brinson | NFL Writer

Julio Jones is always a highlight.
Julio Jones is always a highlight. (USATSI)

Watching someone get cut on Hard Knocks -- essentially a hidden cam for layoffs -- is never easy. Mike Smith and Thomas Dimitroff did a compassionate job with it and many of the Falcons players praised the "family" environment in Atlanta. But it's never easy and it serves as a reminder to many of the players just how quickly things can disappear and change in the NFL.

It's also a reminder of the different personalities on a football team: all quarterbacks aren't created equal, as Jeff Mathews reminds us. A longshot to make the roster in the first place, Mathews didn't seem passionate about grabbing his reps (Dirk Koetter pointed this out to him during Tuesday's show) and looked particularly devastated/angry/disappointed when he was released.

On the other hand at least he didn't have to listen to Keith Armstrong scream at him.

This week's episode opened with Bryan Cox pointing out some guys needed a "come to Jesus meeting," cue the credits and all of a sudden Armstrong, the special teams coach, is angry.

Armstrong urges a group to "wake up and get some pride in your game" before going to the film, pointing out a blown block on special teams by Devonta Freeman and then unleashing on the rookie running back.

“The hell is this? Look at this crap. You kidding me?” Armstrong said to Freeman during It ain't OK to go around and not know. That ain't cute. You got it? That ain't cute and it ain't acceptable.

“GROW THE F*** UP!”

This was probably a bit overblown to try and shape this team into a prepared, viable, functioning unit as the season draws near. But clearly the coaching staff believed the necessary effort -- especially on special teams -- wasn't there.

Increasing the toughness was the main point for Mike Smith's squad this offseason. For most of the game against the Titans (coming after the coaches spent the first portion of the show being furious) it looked like the effort was substantially cranked.

More highlights from Week 4:

— How good are NFL Films and HBO at producing this show? They literally made watching a bunch of dudes sitting around during a storm interesting.

— Gil Brandt asking Julio Jones if he “rubs down” Matt Ryan's arm might've been the biggest non Bryan Cox highlight of this year's Hard Knocks.

— Matt Ryan does a really good job of doing ridiculous football player things for a Sports Illustrated photoshoot and not looking like he feels as absurd as maybe you think he should feel, if that makes sense.

He's not taking off that middle-aged-man workout gear black shirt though. He knows what happens if he skins up.

“Not after I saw the pictures of Colin Kaepernick. Are you kidding me?” Ryan said. “Holy sh*t he was HUGE!”

Joe Hawley recreated a scene from Ghost which would be funnier except I took pottery in high school too and it's pretty awesome. Seriously: I even made a jar with a TOP on it. What you got, Hawley?

— Can we get a show where Devonta Freeman just goes around and tries things for the first time? He's so genuinely excited about the silliest things. LOOK AT THIS TUB. WHY IS HE RUBBING MY TOES?

— Kroy Biermann proved he's probably fun to play Madden against, what with his screaming“COME ON BLIND SIDE! COME ON BLIND SIDE!” at Michael Oher during the Week 3 preseason game.

-- On the bright side we got to see Julio Jones touchdown against the Titans again. Mercy he's ridiculous.

Hard Knocks cut to Arthur Blank in the booth saying “This is an important time for Thomas Dimitroff,” which may reflect a bit of the pressure the GM has coming off a down season.

— Autograph-seeking kids have phones for selfies now a days? When I was hounding autographs as a kid, we had to walk 12 miles just to get to the stadium. *shakes walking stick in air*

THIS WEEK IN IMPORTANT/HYSTERICAL BRYAN COX ADVICE AND OPINIONS:

— “I don't know what Vanilla Sky is but I know it's a fluffy movie. I like to watch Shallow Hal and movies like that. Life was real good. Ride Along was hilarious. Best Man Holiday was the best movie out of the last five years I think. ... Adam Sandler movies. Like any movie he puts out, I'm going.

“I like the movies that when you go to the newspaper and look at the review they've got three stars. Cause them damn people don't know what the hell they be talking about. I want to see those movies. I don't want to see the movies for the Academy Awards. Those some boring-ass movies.”

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