- Tania Ganguli, ESPN Staff Writer
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"Hard Knocks" isn't a show embraced by many teams in the ultra-secretive world of the NFL, but it can make for some very compelling television.
Every team is eligible for the show, but many have the option to say "no" based on a variety of factors. Last year the Texans had the option to say no as they fit two of the criteria for saying no. They had a new head coach and a playoff appearance in one of the prior two seasons. This year, though, they have no such shield.
I've been told the chances the Texans wind up on the show are very strong. The Houston Chronicle's John McClain first reported the Texans were finalists for the show. That would likely mean a lot of J.J. Watt, the two-time Defensive Player of the Year who got the star treatment last year when the featured Atlanta Falcons visited Houston for practices. Watt will embrace this and make for great TV.
Here's a look at five potential Hard Knocks stars who aren't J.J. Watt:
Head Coach Bill O'Brien: Last season O'Brien shared that the quarterbacks in New England had a teapot in their meeting room to represent O'Brien's sometimes explosive temper. With each "teapot incident," they'd draw a mark on the pot. O'Brien might not like having cameras infiltrating his team's preparations, but he'll be a great character on the show. One of the biggest misconceptions about O'Brien is that he is a clone of Bill Belichick, one of O'Brien's mentors and the man most helpful in O'Brien's transition into the NFL 10 years ago. In reality they are two very different men. O'Brien can be as funny as he can be biting, and the cameras will capture that personality.
Outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney: Clowney's return from microfracture surgery is an interesting story. How he personally handles the recovery, and how his body responds as he starts to get more and more involved with training camp practices will be fascinating. I've always found Clowney to be sincere and forthcoming in interviews, and he has no shortage of confidence in himself.
Center Ben Jones: Last year I was in Bristol, Connecticut, for meetings on the same day that former Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray was in the office. I asked him to tell me the weirdest thing he ever saw Ben Jones do while they played together. Murray said during one game, Jones showed up to the huddle before a play and handed Murray some dreadlocks he had torn off an opposing player. That player had apparently hit Murray late and this was Jones' revenge. Murray declined to take the dreadlocks, so Jones tucked them into his pants. He saved them, later hanging them from the fan in his apartment. Ben Jones is a really smart guy who does a lot of weird things. He eats roaches. He walks around barefoot before games. He'll drink cold tub water if dared. This year he'll be transitioning into becoming the Texans' starting center. His Hard Knocks ceiling is very high.
Linebackers coach Mike Vrabel: The stories of Vrabel's wit in meetings when he was a player are numerous, hilarious and not really suitable for print. His style on the field while he's coaching the linebackers is similar. And he's very hands on, often joining players for post-practice conditioning.
Nose tackle Vince Wilfork: He's new to the Texans, so I can't speak first-hand to his personality, but his teammates have spoken a lot since his arrival on his strong presence. He'll instantly be a leader on this team. Plus, he dances.
The fiery style of Houston Texans coach Bill O'Brien and the quirks of center Ben Jones could make for intriguing TV.