zekecatch.jpg
USA Today

America's Team is back, baby. Amid Dak Prescott's anticipated return and the approaching 2021 regular season, the Cowboys returned to TV on Tuesday night for the third episode of this year's edition of "Hard Knocks." HBO's annual training camp series, which runs weekly through Sept. 7 with an inside look at the club's preparations for the new year, marks the third time Dallas has been featured on the show.

Who stood out in Tuesday's third episode, easily the best of the series thus far? Who needs some work for Episode 4? Here are the winners and losers:

Winner: The Cowboys brand

Jerry Jones can rest easy knowing the America's Team operation is as marketable as ever. We got a long (and weirdly quiet but visually impressive) drone tour of The Star, his luxurious 91-acre headquarters. We got multiple shots of Jerry boarding and deplaning a helicopter in shades.

And we got maybe the best "Hard Knocks" episode in two years thanks to a slew of entertaining segments on everyone from rookie running backs to mailroom employees. Put it this way: I'm an Eagles fan, and I liked watching the Cowboys in Episode 3. This was the most appealing foray into their business since Gary Myers wrote a whole book on their #brand

Loser: Micah Parsons

We don't mean to pick on the rookie linebacker in this column, but the show keeps framing him like a guy who can't stop complaining, either about playing time or his coverage assignments. This time around, he pushed back when both CeeDee Lamb and coach George Edwards insisted he made the wrong reads in practice. Real-game production, of course, would cure all this.

Winner: Aaiden Diggs

The 4-year-old son of corner Trevon Diggs, he might've been the star of the whole show. From showing off his touchdown dances, mimicking Uncle Stefon Diggs' moves, mistakenly hyping himself up to meet Patrick Mahomes instead of Dak Prescott, to screaming at Daddy Trevon from the stands of the Cowboys' preseason game, he was cute and confident every time he hit the screen.

Loser: Ben DiNucci

Competing for the Cowboys' backup quarterback job, he didn't get a chance to flesh out his backstory. Even worse, almost all of his screen time involved him throwing an interception or beating himself up for it. An Episode 4 roster cut might be on the horizon.

Winner: Every single profile segment

This episode was a hit -- easily more entertaining than anything from 2020's Chargers-Rams combination -- chiefly because of its steady stream of side stories. Instead of highlighting ... a coach's British accent? ... we got more personal stuff from:

  • Isaac Alarcón, the Mexico native trying to crack the roster as a backup tackle, who spent several minutes recounting his international journey in Spanish, alongside family, and had his mom praying over his every snap in the preseason
  • JaQuan Hardy, the undrafted rookie running back who lost a contact lens in his preseason debut and had everyone from Dak Prescott to Ezekiel Elliott to RBs coach Skip Peete cracking up over his terminology for vision issues
  • Jonathon Jackson, the fourth-generation Cowboys employee running the team's mailroom and spending free time as "the card doctor," playing Spades with Dak and Zeke