America's Team is officially back. Days after kicking off their 2021 preseason, the Cowboys returned to TV on Tuesday night for the premiere of HBO's new season of "Hard Knocks." The annual training camp series, which runs weekly through Sept. 7 with an inside look at the club's preparations in Oxnard, California, marks the third time Dallas has been featured on the show.
Who stood out in Tuesday's debut episode? Who needs some work for Episode 2? Here are the winners and losers:
Winner: Dak Prescott
The Cowboys quarterback was rightfully the focus of Episode 1, and he's a likable, laid-back lead. The bar wasn't too high after Jared Goff mumbled his way through 2020's show, which somehow made two teams based in Los Angeles feel anonymous, but still, we can safely look forward to hanging out with Dak more as the season progresses. He was most interesting, however, when he let irritation spill out, particularly over the Cowboys limiting his workload early in camp as part of ankle rehab.
Reunited and it feels so good 🤝 #HardKnocks@Dak | @EzekielElliott pic.twitter.com/pCKQgH9Q5B— NFL Films (@NFLFilms) August 11, 2021
"I sat last year enough," he muttered to teammates as coaches pulled him from team reps. "I'll let ya'll know if I'm f------ sore or something's bothering me." At the very least, this guy cares a lot about getting back on the field and returning to form in 2021.
Loser: Dak Prescott's rehab
Dak is certainly eager to give his ankle, which he confirmed underwent two different surgeries, a full workload. And he looked mobile enough moving around on it when given the chance. But Episode 1 also chronicled his current shoulder strain, which popped up during camp and prompted Dallas to prohibit him from throwing a single pass for a whole week of practice. Jerry Jones and Mike McCarthy got vague assurances of Prescott's road to recovery, but Cowboys fans can't be thrilled about yet another medical hurdle.
Winner: Ezekiel Elliott
Mostly because he brought energy to an otherwise humdrum premiere. Whether it was wrapping gifts for the first time at age 26 (!), recounting his bromance with Prescott or rocking a new sweatshirt under his pads in an effort to lose weight, the Cowboys running back rarely sported anything but a smile. Next time, give us Zeke and Dak hanging out off the field, please and thank you.
Loser: Mike McCarthy
Maybe this is "McCarthy is already uninspiring" bias seeping in, but the Cowboys coach didn't exactly steal the show in his first reality-TV appearance as America's Team head honcho. He had a nice family moment with his 80-year-old mom attending Dallas' preseason opener, but otherwise, we got him: 1.) asking CEO Stephen Jones whether he should limit Zeke's camp workload (uh, shouldn't you be making that call?); and 2.) dropping bad-cop insults like "High School Harry" during a preseason hype speech that felt just a little too played for the cameras. Jerry Jones is coaching this thing anyway; might as well give us more of him.
Winner: Austin Powers
A month after getting play in the "Space Jam" sequel, somehow Mike Myers' man of mystery from the 1990s comedy series is a hit once again, this time because McCarthy showed his guys an old movie clip to inspire what he called "Mojo Moments" -- or high-pressure opportunities in camp. Yeah, this is where the Cowboys are at.
Bonus winner: Jerry Jones
Just for having the audacity to douse his breakfast sandwich in salt. Whatever keeps you going!
Say "when." 🧂#HardKnocks pic.twitter.com/3IIaf5G2Ct— NFL Films (@NFLFilms) August 11, 2021