The overarching themes of the second episode of this season’s “Hard Knocks” revolved around the New York Jets’ dominant defensive line, the ups-and-downs of the offensive line and even more Aaron Rodgers behind the scenes.

There were other moments that stood out as well, including those relating to backup quarterback Zach Wilson, the former BYU and Corner Canyon High standout who’s learning under Rodgers after two difficult seasons.

Zach Wilson gets some wise advice

The Jets took on the Carolina Panthers during the first full week of preseason action, and Wilson started again for New York at quarterback while the four-time NFL MVP Rodgers sat it out.

Wilson had a strong outing, completing 14 of 20 passes for 123 yards and a touchdown while playing a half in the Jets’ 27-0 victory.

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Following the game, Wilson received some encouraging words of support from a veteran on the Panthers sideline — wide receiver Adam Thielen, a former Minnesota Vikings standout and two-time Pro Bowler.

“Stay in it, man. Don’t let other people say who you are, just go and frickin’ prove it. You’re a (expletive) of a player, just believe it,” Thielen told Wilson in a moment shared near the end of the latest “Hard Knocks” episode. “I know it’s tough. This league is tough. But you’ve just got to frickin’ go prove it every day — at practice, every time you get a chance, just go prove it. 

“You don’t have to talk about it, none of that, just prove it.”

In his postgame press conference, Wilson talked about being grateful for his opportunities in the league.

“You’ve got to be grateful for the ups and downs ... and grateful for what’s to come, too,” Wilson said.

Zach Wilson and ‘done being stressed’

Before Thielen delivered his advice to Wilson, there was a segment in the “Hard Knocks” episode geared toward how Wilson and multiple Jets personnel tried to help the quarterback release the stress prior to the game and just have fun.

Jets defensive Jeff Ulbrich asked Wilson to do one thing for him during the game — smile every play.

“You have earned the right to play well, and enjoy it, too,” Ulbrich told him.

Moments later, Wilson is shown greeting Jets quarterbacks coach Rob Calabrese in warmups.

“We’re always having fun, Rob. We’re done being stressed! Football’s fun!” Wilson yells.

Why does Aaron Rodgers pick grass?

One of Rodgers’ habits — picking blades of grass on the field — was examined during a segment in the second episode.

The veteran quarterback explained that he does it to help with getting a better grip on the ball, as well as to gauge the direction of the wind.

“I think I started doing that when it was a little cold in Green Bay, just to get a little extra dexterity rubbing the grass or dirt on your hands to be able to grip the ball a little bit better,” Rodgers said during the show. “It’s also a great way to see what way the wind’s blowing, which I think is an underrated part of practice sometimes.

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“... It’s just like a little moment of meditation on the field, just to get down there and get with the elements and take a breath.”

Carolina Panthers quarterback Bryce Young (9) talks with New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers after an NFL preseason football game, Saturday, Aug. 12, 2023, in Charlotte, N.C. | Jacob Kupferman, Associated Press

Best one-liners

  • “You know too many people.” “I’m old.” — An exchange between an unnamed man and Rodgers after the game against the Panthers.
  • “I don’t know why some people feel entitled. Some days you need a slap in the mouth, you know what I’m saying?” — Jets defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, in this case talking about the battles between offensive and defensive players. 
  • “Hey, you shifty. Where you went to school at?” — Carolina offensive tackle Cameron Erving, to Jets rookie defensive lineman Will McDonald IV during the game.

How to watch ‘Hard Knocks’

The 18th season of “Hard Knocks” continued Tuesday night with the second one-hour episode.

New episodes are released each Tuesday at 8 p.m. MDT, leading up to the season finale on Sept. 5. There will be five episodes in total.

HBO subscribers can watch episodes live on the channel. Those who are subscribed to HBO’s streaming service, Max, can also watch it live or find it to stream after 8 p.m. each Tuesday.

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