Ever since the Oakland Raiders were controversially selected to host HBO’s docuseries, Hard Knocks, the anticipation has been building. Tonight, the final episode aired, and in a way, the season has started for fans of the Oakland Raiders. Every week, we’ve watched along with the rest of Raider Nation and made notes of our favorite parts, interesting observations, and a brief description of everything that took place. Tonight, we discuss the finale.
Hard Knocks Life: Episode Five Review
The show opens, not with Derek Carr, not with Jon Gruden, but with Andrew Luck’s retirement. There’s a brief conversation about how the “retirement rate of every player is 100” and capitalizing on the frail nature of an athlete’s body over a long enough time.
The next thing we see is Gruden leaving for work in the pitch black. Gruden and Paul Guenther are carpooling and the coach is praising his defensive coordinator. Gruden recaps how long he’s been counting backwards by three, and then “Wherever I May Roam” by Metallica starts playing and then he loses it because apparently, he’s a fan. Good news coach, they’re big fans of you too.
Mr. Big Chest
Practice starts and Trent Brown helps Antonio Brown adjust his shoulder pads. For a brief moment, I have visions of Vegeta and Nappa. If you don’t understand why, I’m not gonna waste your time. Brown finally appears to be at 100% and he’s practicing at full speed with the team. He absolutely goes off, getting open and yards after the catch on just about everyone in Oakland’s secondary, including a streak on Gareon Conley. There’s another streak where he tips the ball to himself and toe-taps.
Back at Brown’s house, he’s getting a massage to heal after practice and he confesses his feet hurt a little bit after practice. One of his children puts on one of his helmets, and I’ll tell you what, HBO has to love these kids. Every time they’ve been on TV, they’ve been gold. It seems like he’s found a helmet he likes, and everyone’s got an opinion. Some people say it looks like a camaro, a lambo, a Power Ranger, and a mini-fridge.
We move over to Gruden, who desperately wants Carr to run more. This is something many Raiders fans have agreed with over the years. We finally see the bit where he chases Carr around like a pass rusher. It’s absolutely wild. This coach is absolutely insane. He’s got everyone in the meeting room, where he’s showing various tailbacks pass block, starting with Le’Veon Bell, and then Danny Woodhead.
Practice? We Talkin’ About Practice
Back on the practice field, Brandon Marshall wants to climb the depth chart, but knowing what we know now, the show takes a dark turn. Marshall tells the story of how Peyton Manning basically got him the job in Denver. We get a montage of Marshall playing with the Broncos before highlighting his bad knee. He seems like he’s anxious to finally get back on the field, but it might be too late. He didn’t flash during practice or games, and he worries that the coaches have already formed their opinion of him.
We see the Raiders that have guaranteed spots, specifically Johnathan Abram, Maxx Crosby, and Darren Waller. The rest of the roster doesn’t seem as sure as we get a montage of everyone that’s been spotlighted during hard knocks this summer. Gruden praises Nathan Peterman, Keelan Doss, Luke Willson, and Jason Cabinda.
It’s the final preseason game and the Oakland Raiders travel to Seattle to take on the Seahawks. Former Seahawk Luke Willson talks a little trash to his teammate, Russell Wilson. The back-up quarterback debate rages on as Mike Glennon gets the first reps. There’s an officiating mess-up where the refs originally tell Gruden he’ll get an automatic first down, but then it’s only five yards.
The Seahawks score pretty easily and the Raider defense does not look good. Before you know it, the team is down 14-3. They keep showing Cabinda and his mom, who is watching at home, and he makes a few tackles in the open field. Gruden hypes him up and Luke Willson comes over to give him praise, sad foreshadowing for what we know is coming.
Nathan Peterman replaces Glennon and he plays well, and much like practice, he takes off with his legs, setting up a field goal. Daniel Carlson, one of the better unknown stories of the Raiders, makes his second three of the night. Keelan Doss drops a corner route right in front of Gruden and then follows it up with another drop. Gruden jokingly asks Mike Mayock to “find us some guys that can catch please” and tells Peterman to throw it to Doss. He finally warms up and catches a few passes, moving the ball down the field.
Unfortunately, Peterman gets sacked on a nickel blitz and fumbles because he doesn’t see it coming. Then he complains about pain in his elbow, which we now know ends up getting him on injured reserve. He plays through the pain, hoping to secure his spot as Carr’s backup. They score on a rushing touchdown and opt to go for two to tie the game. Peterman drops back, holds onto the ball too long, and gets sacked.
In a cruel moment of foreshadowing, Cabinda says, “you form bonds and you may never see some of these guys again.”
Brandon Marshall and Luke Willson, a couple of off-season veterans, are released. Marshall laments his slow rehab, but understands that it’s a business. Willson seems surprised that he was cut, and isn’t taking it well. He says that it is what it is, and it’s not what it’s not, which is pretty clever, if obvious. We get the video of Nathan Peterman finding out that he’s injured, but it helps him make the team, albeit on injured reserve.
Sadly, this is where many of the Hard Knocks favorites get cut. Doss is cut, as is Cabinda. Keith Smith lost the fullback battle, so he’s cleaning out his locker room at the same time as Cabinda, who isn’t taking it well at all and seems to be on the verge of tears. Paul Guenther has a heartfelt talk with Cabinda, who says he wanted to keep him but it came down to special teams.
We get a picture of Al Davis’ big board, and it’s truly a moment so fantastic that I can’t describe it accurately. Do whatever you can to find it. It gave me chills. Gruden congratulated the remaining 53, including 12 rookies, and tells them he’s got a good group of guys that love football. We get one last Antonio Brown montage, and he’s fired up.
Gruden rocking out to Metallica put a grin on my face, but nothing’s better than Antonio Brown doing Antonio Brown stuff in practice. He might’ve had some issues, but he’s going to be fun to watch this season. Keelan Doss saying “Once a raider, always a Raider” is a great moment. Walking through Al Davis’ office seriously gave me goosebumps.
Thing That Bothered Me
The same thing that bothered all of Raider Nation, that so many of the great players we’ve grown to know and love over the off-season are gone now. But alas, that’s the nature of the game, and I don’t know about you, but I’d rather Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden made those decisions over Raiders Twitter.
What We Learned
That despite what some blue checks or washed up offensive linemen will tell you, this team isn’t as much of a circus as you’ve been lead the believe. Gruden loves Metallica, football, and his players. It wasn’t easy, but Gruden has a vision for the future of the Raiders. Is it a good vision? Only one way to find out.