Ever since the Oakland Raiders were controversially selected to host HBO’s docuseries, Hard Knocks, the anticipation has been building. Tonight, the second episode aired, and in a way, the season has started for Raider Nation.
Every week, we’ll watch along with the rest of Raider Nation and make notes of our favorite parts, interesting observations, and a brief description of everything that took place.
Hard Knocks Life: Episode Two Review
This week on Hard Knocks, we got to experience the joint practices with the Los Angeles Rams before their first preseason game. The show opened with Gruden giving a fiery speech during meetings, wanting better “effing” execution from everyone because the expectations weren’t high for the team this year.
*Drinking Game- Take a shot every time coach Gruden drops the F bomb*
Gruden points out that two years ago, the Los Angeles Rams weren’t very good, but then last year, they were the NFC Champions, in the Super Bowl, where the Raiders want to be. They don’t mess around with the Antonio Brown drama, jumping right into it. The Hard Knocks cam cuts to A.B. back home (I thought nobody knew where he was?), and he’s showing off his feet, which while ugly, look better than they did before.
Brown tells the story of how his feet were messed up in Paris and how he had to get surgery on them almost immediately because of how bad they swelled up. Brown leaves training camp to heal up and the focus moves to everyone trying to fill the void in his absence, starting with off-season darling, Keelan Doss.
Doss is chatting up with Gruden, and the head coach seems very impressed with the undrafted rookie. He asks Gruden about routes, and Gruden is pleased. Next, it shows everyone putting him over before showing all the drops he has with the simple plays and explaining that he’s local, from Alameda, California.
Carr On The Move
The next scene shows practice, where Carr seems a lot more comfortable taking off with his legs, something that’s been a criticism of him throughout the years, leading to him chatting at Johnathan Abram and accidentally getting knocked over, which Coach Gruden was not thrilled with.
While Carr’s spot on the team is secure, his backups weren’t as impressive and Gruden let them hear it. Gruden tears Nathan Peterman apart, saying he’s not throwing the ball fast enough, accurate enough, and then being furious with how long it takes him to get set. As if that wasn’t bad enough, HBO reminds us just how bad Peterman was in Buffalo with a lowlight reel. Then Gruden gets after Peterman and Mike Glennon about their attitudes in the huddle; explaining they’d need to console or fire up the huddle after a potential injury to the starter.
Even though they said there wouldn’t be rookie hazing (this is hardly hazing, I’m kidding), Carr still had Hunter Renfrow come down in front of the entire team, say his name and signing bonus before singing a horribly tone-deaf “Lean on Me.” Next up is Mad Maxx Crosby, who tried to sing “Buy U a Drank” by T-Pain, which was much better received by the team. The camera crew sticks with Crosby, who gets yet another tattoo, this time of the number 106, where he was taken, and a Mad Max piece for his sleeve.
The Rams finally come to town and Gruden runs off the usual suspects of Jared Goff, Aaron Donald, and Todd Gurley before Gruden’s love for Sean McVay shines through. Jon explains how he gave McVay his start in the NFL.
The joint practices start, but they don’t start well. Clay Matthews deflects a pass right out of Carr’s hands, Glennon drops a snap, DeAndre Washington fumbles, and Aaron Donald destroys Oakland’s offensive line. Carr throws a gorgeous pass to Tyrell Williams in the endzone and it slips right through his hands. Clelin Ferrell and Maxx Crosby struggle against LA’s offensive line and their defensive line coach Brenston Buckner rips them apart.
The Helmet Situation
They tip-toe around the Antonio Brown situation, very clearly annoyed and uncomfortable with the questions before leaping into the helmet situation, which they take on, warts and all. Gruden laments his absence but doesn’t say anything inflammatory. The HBO team splices in unused film from last week where AB puts his helmet on at the behest of his son.
Day two of practice starts and the Raiders look a lot better. Abram, who stole the show Week 1, lays a ton of great hits and the defensive line looks a lot better while Metallica storms on in the background. Alec Ingold takes on Clay Matthews and we get our first camp fight.
There’s a great moment where Charles Woodson and Jonathan Abram have a heart-to-heart moment between 24’s where C-Wood basically tells him to be himself. This is the content I’m here for.
They cut to Brent Musburger asking Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden about Antonio’s absence but neither man really seems bothered about anything but practice missed. Gruden phrases it as “optimistic but concerned.” When asked about Carr, Gruden says they needed to get him some weapons, which they have in Williams and Brown.
Finally, game day arrives, and while many of the starters are inactive, the spotlight is on the youngsters and the backup quarterbacks. If you watched the game, you know what comes next. Glennon plays well at first, hitting J.J. Nelson deep before DeAndre Washington punches a touchdown in. Glennon seems to have taken Gruden’s advice because he’s fired up after the score. Gruden is very pleased.
On defense, Abram is fired up, and he’s already calling the shots in the huddle. They show his highlight reel, making several tackles and throwing offensive linemen aside like tailbacks. The film cuts to Crosby, who is playing well but suffers an injury, which we now know is a broken hand. They put a cast on him and he returns from the locker room, gets back on the field and even makes a tackle, which Gruden loved.
On the next drive, Glennon is intercepted on a hideous pass where he made a really bad read. The next time he’s on the field, he just misses Derek Carrier and is intercepted again, which causes a frustrated Gruden to leave the sideline and ask him what he was doing. In the second half, Nathan Peterman takes over and he’s very vocal in the huddle. Keelan Doss gets wide open and Peterman completely misses him.
Peterman’s not much better than Glennon, completely missing reads and dropping the ball on the pre-snap reads. Eventually, we get to see the Peterman read that went viral, which gets the slow-mo NFL films treatment. Peterman finds Doss on a slant in the endzone, which Gruden praises Peterman for, but at least the undrafted rookie gets a touchdown in Oakland. The Raiders win and the final shot is what we’ve all been waiting for, the return of Antonio Brown.
Gruden makes the players identify stars on the Rams. This sticks to the theme of Gruden holding his players accountable and feels a lot more organized than just about everything we saw on the field last season. I also liked that they didn’t dance around the Antonio Brown situation. They told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. That kind of transparency is reassuring. Also, everything about the conversation between Abram and Woodson.
Thing That Bothered Me
They made backup quarterbacks a priority but neither guy impressed. Gruden wants to love these backup quarterbacks and neither guy was consistent enough to play well, even in a preseason game. If you take that run away from Peterman, both backups struggled pretty bad against the Los Angeles backups in vanilla defensive schemes.
What We Learned
While the Antonio Brown situation definitely bothered the Raiders, they were never as panicked as Raider Nation was. The message of “be available” is felt by the entire locker room and it seems like everyone is on the same page. Carr is the established starter but there are questions about his backups that will be resolved before the end of the preseason.
Scenes From Next Time
Next time on Hard Knocks, we’ll learn about the fallout from #Helmetgate and witness Brown’s return to practice.