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‘Hard Knocks’ Episode 3: Keenan Allen and Chris Harris Go Toe-to-Toe

The former rivals and expert trash talkers squared off at practice. Plus: a surprise appearance from Brett Favre.

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Chris Harris and Keenan Allen waged battle for years as rivals, and this week’s episode of Hard Knocks finally addressed that. Harris, a onetime All-Pro cornerback with the Denver Broncos, matched up against Allen 16 times in the first nine years of his career. Harris went 12-4, he reminded us—before signing a two-year, $17 million deal with Los Angeles this offseason.

Allen, who’s reached three consecutive Pro Bowls, and Harris are two of the best in the league at their positions. They’re also two of the best trash talkers. And it made for some fantastic theater as one of the game’s best route runners locked in with one of the league’s best man-to-man defenders. Hard Knocks even pulled up an interview with Allen from last October in which he was asked whether it was true that Harris couldn’t “hold [his] jockstrap.” He responded: “Go watch the film.”

Well, the two finally suited up in pads in this week’s episode, giving us a chance to see whether Allen’s claim is true. Turns out, the film don’t lie ...

Of course, it’s just one practice rep. Harris terrorized the Chargers for the past nine seasons. He picked off Philip Rivers four times, the most picks Harris has against a single quarterback. (If Rivers were still a Charger, Harris said he’d be directing some trash talk his way, too.) At one point, Chargers coach Anthony Lynn turned to an assistant and sang Harris’s praises too, joking that he was tired of Harris being on the opposing sideline. It seems that Harris is content with his new team thus far, even explaining to his wife that he’s enjoyed matching up with Allen each day.

“He’s a beast,” Harris said of Allen. “Now being able to put that work in together, it’s just going to make us better.”

Below are two additional takeaways from Tuesday’s episode.

Rams LB Clay Johnston remains a treasure, and another intriguing UDFA emerges

Johnston became a Hard Knocks darling when the seventh-round pick first appeared as a diligent, happy-spirited player last episode, yelling out “Aw, fudge!” after any mistakes he made. But he entrenched himself as a fan favorite this week when he hopped on Zoom with his father, Kent, and Packers great Brett Favre. Kent is a former NFL strength coach and previously worked with Favre in Green Bay.

“Papa Favre!” may seem like a bit much until you see a photo of Favre lifting up Johnston as a toddler.

Favre wrapped up the session by telling Johnston to “just go be you” as the linebacker hopes to earn a roster spot. Earlier in the episode, we’d seen Johnston promise an assistant coach that he’d “play my freaking nuts off” during the Rams’ scrimmage—and based on the thrilling montage of his two-tackle performance, it looks like he did. But in addition to Johnston, we were introduced to another intriguing fringe roster player in undrafted rookie safety JuJu Hughes.

Hughes’s schtick is playing football with … a toothpick in his mouth, something he said he started doing to help him stop biting his nails.

We’ll spend next week on the edge of our seats wondering not only whether Hughes will survive cuts, but if he can manage to not swallow one of those toothpicks during practice.

Melvin Ingram held in, then got paid

Ingram, a three-time Pro Bowler, is one of the best edge players in the league. He’s registered 24.5 sacks in the past three years and 49 sacks in eight seasons. The Chargers signed Joey Bosa to a mega-deal earlier this offseason, but hadn’t yet locked in the veteran Ingram to a new deal as this week’s episode began.

Most players hold out. But Ingram opted in, showing up to practices amid his contract dispute as he enters the final year of his current pact. The catch: Ingram didn’t partake in any drills until he got a new deal. He ended up restructuring the deal, securing himself $14 million guaranteed this year.

Ingram’s approach was interesting. He was shown passing advice to younger players during Tuesday’s episode while also keeping the mood light. Quarterback coach Pep Hamilton commended Ingram for how he carried himself. Lynn was so impressed, he mentioned that Ingram could have a future in coaching. Perhaps that’s down the road, but in the meantime, Ingram spared no effort in taking the Hard Knocks crew inside “Vulcanic Studioz,” where the menacing defender is hoping to kickstart a rap career. If his rhymes are as devastating as he is off the edge, he might have a chance.