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'Hard Knocks: Los Angeles'—Five Things to Watch out for in HBO's NFL Series

Newsweek logo Newsweek 8/11/2020 Dan Cancian
a man holding a baseball bat: Sean McVay and Jared Goff #16 of the Los Angeles Rams have a chat during the game against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on October 3, 2019 in Seattle, Washington. The Seattle Seahawks defeated the Rams 30-29. © Alika Jenner/Getty Sean McVay and Jared Goff #16 of the Los Angeles Rams have a chat during the game against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on October 3, 2019 in Seattle, Washington. The Seattle Seahawks defeated the Rams 30-29.

Not even a global pandemic can stop Hard Knocks. The latest instalment of HBO's cult series documenting life in an NFL training camp hits the screens at 10 p.m. ET on Tuesday and viewers will be treated to the unusual sight of two teams featuring simultaneously on the show, with HBO and NFL Films dispatching camera crews to cover both the Los Angeles Rams' and the Los Angeles Chargers' camps.

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With over 2,300 of footage recorded over the course of the series, there should be no shortage of talking points.

This season, the inauguration of SoFi Stadium—the franchises' shiny new home in Inglewood, California—is expected to be one of the major storyline, but plenty of focus will be placed on how both franchises are dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

Here's five subplots to follow over the next five weeks.

The move to SoFi Stadium

The decision to feature both teams on the 15th season of the Sports Emmy Award-winning series is largely due to the franchises' impending move into the state-of-the-art SoFi Stadium that is nearing completion in Inglewood, California.​

Built at a total cost of almost $5 billion, the 70,000-seat stadium will be the most expensive venue in NFL history and will mark the beginning of a new era for the two franchises, with the Rams and the Chargers both debuting new logos and uniforms this season.

While the new venue has been partly funded by Rams' owner Stan Kroenke, the move to SoFi Stadium is particularly significant for the chargers, who have struggled to attract crowds since returning to Los Angeles from San Diego in 2017.

How will football cope with the COVID-19 outbreak?

Hard Knocks premieres less than a month before the Kansas City Chiefs are scheduled to host the Houston Texans in the NFL season opener at Arrowhead Stadium on September 10. Whether the reigning Super Bowl champions and the Texans will take the field on the day remains to be seen, as the novel coronavirus pandemic continues to cause havoc across the country. So far, the NFL has steadfastly insisted the season will begin as scheduled but if the last four months have taught the league anything is that nothing can be taken for granted.

Los Angeles Rams offensive tackle Chandler Brewer is among the several players who have already opted out of the upcoming season due to coronavirus-related concerns and Hard Knocks should offer a clearer picture of how teams are dealing with the unprecedented circumstances caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.

"We're gonna social distance, but we play football?" Rams head coach Sean McVay said shortly after it was announced his team would feature on Hard Knocks. "It's really hard for me to understand all this. I don't get it."

A new start for the Rams

SoFi Stadium may herald the beginning of a new era off the field for the Rams, but the team has undergone significant changes on it too. After reaching Super Bowl LIII on the back of a high-octane offense, the Rams struggled to replicate the same kind of form last season, missing the playoffs despite finishing 9-7.

The Rams signed quarterback Jared Goff to a four-year extension worth $110 million last September but the wisdom of that decision was brought into question during the season, with the first overall pick of the 2016 draft showing worrying signs of regression. The contract handed out to Goff left the Rams little room for maneuver in free agency and the franchise opted to free some salary cap space by surprisingly cutting star running back Todd Gurley in March.

The Offensive Player of The Year in 2017, Gurley was a crucial cog in the Rams' free-scoring offense that led them to face the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LIII, before being slowed down by a persistent knee injury. Expect Sean McVay's quest to rediscover his team's offensive mojo to feature prominently during the series.

The Chargers quarterback battle

If the Rams were disappointing last season, the same goes for the Chargers. A year on since finishing with the AFC's second-best record, an injury-ravaged campaign saw the Chargers finish 5-11, the worst record of Anthony Lynn's three-year tenure.

The 2020 Chargers will look significantly different from last season's vintage, chiefly as for the first time after 17 seasons Philip Rivers will no longer be under center.

The veteran quarterback left Los Angeles in free agency, meaning Lynn will have to choose between Tyrod Taylor, who was signed in March, and Justin Herbert, who the Chargers selected with the sixth overall pick of the NFL Draft back in April. Taylor will likely be the starter in Week 1, whenever that may be, but it will be intriguing to see how Herbert acquaints himself during training camp.

Social protests and Black Lives Matter

In the wake of George Floyd's death while in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25, several NFL players announced they intended to knee during the national anthem before games this season. They found a surprising ally in league commissioner Roger Goodell, who acknowledged the NFL had not done enough to hear the players' calls for social justice in the past and, much to President Donald Trump's displeasure, encouraged players to protest peacefully this season.

It will be interesting to see whether the issue of social protests is discussed during training camp, particularly Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn is one of just four minority head coaches in the NFL.

a man wearing glasses talking on a cell phone: Anthony Lynn, head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers, shouts instructions to his team in the first quarter of the game against the Minnesota Vikings at Dignity Health Sports Park on December 15, 2019 in Carson, California. Jeff Gross/Getty © Jeff Gross/Getty Anthony Lynn, head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers, shouts instructions to his team in the first quarter of the game against the Minnesota Vikings at Dignity Health Sports Park on December 15, 2019 in Carson, California. Jeff Gross/Getty

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