It’s official, Jon Gruden’s Oakland Raiders have been selected for the 14th season of HBO’s hit NFL docuseries, Hard Knocks. Some people think it causes a distraction, others think the “Hard Knocks Effect” doesn’t exist, but regardless of how you feel about the show, two things are certain.
First, it will have a better finale than Game of Thrones. Secondly, it’s going to be wildly entertaining. Here are a few predictions for the 2019 season of Hard Knocks.
Hard Knocks 2019 Predictions
The Best in the Biz
Last season, former Raiders head coach Hue Jackson was still running the Cleveland Browns, and the show made him seem entertaining. If they could make Hue fun to watch, imagine what Gruden will look like. Even before Gruden spent a decade as part of the NFL media, he was one of the more entertaining mic’d up coaches.
An entire preseason’s worth of Gruden making snide comments under his breath, gushing over his favorite players, and self-aware fourth-wall-breaking conversations with himself and his assistant coaches is almost entertaining enough to carry the entire show by itself.
If social media threats and recent clips from camp are any indication, Derek Carr has a bit of a new attitude in 2019. He’s always had a good sense of humor, but this season, there’s a little bit of an edge to him. Maybe he’s tired of being counted out, maybe he’s excited to finally play with some reliable explosive weapons, or maybe he’s just got a really firm grip on Gruden’s offense, but the pastor isn’t playing around.
Carr is so well behaved that people often think of him as boring, but that’s not the case. Just because he’s a church boy, that doesn’t mean he “takes a glass of warm milk to bed” with him every night. I’m just saying, don’t underestimate the franchise quarterback’s ability to entertain on the stick this season.
Mr. Big Chest
If we’re being honest, Hard Knocks was locked up the second the Raiders acquired Antonio Brown from the Pittsburgh Steelers. As divisive off the field as he is dominant on it, A.B. is absolutely a player to watch on this season of Hard Knocks. Will he continue to say all the right things? Can his relationship with Carr continue to blossom into something productive with cheers of #ChickenPlan? How will he react the first time his quarterback underthrows him or Gruden gets a little short with him? It feels like fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers will tune in as much as Raider Nation will, just to see if “Mr. Big Chest” rears his ugly head.
The Oakland Raiders added 22 rookies this off-season, and while many of them won’t see the final 53, at least four or five are basically a lock, especially the three first round picks. Clelin Ferrell, Josh Jacobs, and Jonathan Abram are not only locks to make the roster, but they should start on day one. I think Ferrell will be the focus, but I bet Abram ends up being the star of the show. Just watch, his attitude is perfect for this show, especially against Gruden.
The Oakland Raiders signed both Richie Incognito and Vontaze Burfict this off-season, and that tells you a lot about the team that Gruden and Mike Mayock are trying to build. This team is built to be physical and punish opponents, something both of these veterans are known for. Unfortunately, that’s not all their known for.
Richie Incognito had an incident last year where he wanted people at a funeral home to cut his deceased father’s head off, and when they refused, he terrorized the place and threatened to shoot them. When the police arrived, they found several guns in his car, escalating the situation even further. This is on top of a history of bullying (depending who you ask) other players, allegedly saying racist things during games, and taking cheap shots.
Some fans were frightened by this move, others felt he’s just the latest in a long line of proud Raider maniacs. Regardless of which party is right, he’s almost bound to say something crazy with HBO at camp.
Burfict doesn’t have quite the same background, but he is known for his questionable play. He’s been suspended for ten games and fined well over $300,000 in his seven-year career so far thanks to a history of violent hits, some of which were obviously mean-spirited. Most infamously was an admittedly very cheap shot on Antonio Brown himself in the playoffs. The two claim they’ve buried the hatchet, but let’s see what happens when the heat is on and Brown drifts over the middle.
The Dark Horse
Last season, Cleveland’s offensive line coach, Bob Wylie became an overnight sensation with his hilarious character. This season, I have a sneaking suspicion that another offensive line coach will have his moment in the sun. Former Raider’s head coach, Tom Cable, is one of the most controversial figures on the team, which is saying something.
It’s always interesting when a former head coach returns to the team (as Raiders fans know all too well), but it’s really fascinating when he A. has a secondary coaching job, B. watches his unit struggle, and C. has a history of less-than-savory behavior. Cable checks all three boxes.
The offensive line will be one of the more interesting groups on the team this season. Kolton Miller has bulked up and gotten healthy in the off-season, and they made Trent Brown the highest paid lineman in NFL history, just to put him on the right side of the line. Not to mention, he’ll be coaching the volatile Incognito. Just like with regular football, the offensive line often goes unnoticed, but don’t be surprised if they end up stealing the show this August.