Episode 2 of this year’s Hard Knocks started with a brilliant Jon Gruden quote “put your foot up someone’s ass”. And to be honest with you, you need someone to put their foot in your ass during this episode to keep you awake. This was a great show in the past but my god this episode was awfully dull. The opening theme song has now become “The Autumn Wind” which is a draws flashes back to Myles Garrett’s poetry in last year’s series. They really need to give up on this shit. This week, we got introduced to this year’s long shot hopeful, got a glimpse of other league player’s opinion on Aaron Donald when the Rams came to camp, an update on the backup QB contest and the latest on Antonio Brown’s offseason antics.
One of the biggest outcomes from this episode was the introduction to this year’s undrafted longshot, Keelan Doss. Doss played football at UC Davis in California. The Aggies (yes, that is their nickname) play in in the Big Sky Conference and only in the past 15 years have made the jump to Division 1 football status. Doss holds records at the school for most touchdowns (29) and all purpose hard (4,219yards). With Gruden and Carr openly discussing Doss’ ability to the media and him grabbing his first preseason TD against the Rams, does he stand a chance of making the roster?
Let’s take a quick look at his opposition. Assuming the team hold on to 6 wide receivers, the Raiders current carry 8 wide outs so will need to cut ties with 2 of the following players. Antonio Brown (if he does not retire), Tyrell Williams and J.J Nelson are likely to be the starting three. Dwayne Harris will likely be the punt/kick returner after returning for 996 yards including a 99 yard TD. Hunter Renfrow (who does figure quite a bit along side Doss in this week’s episode) was the 5th round select for the Raiders in the 2019 draft and can also be used as a punt/kick returner. He will also certainly make the team. Ryan Grant has played in the league for 5 years and looks likely to make it a 6th with his strong performance this offseason. That leaves on more spot up for grabs. Marcell Ateman spent all of 2018 on the raiders practise squad and only made his debut last November. He did impress when he did play, however. Koen Hatcher was Keelan Doss last preseason. He impressed enough to make an appearance in week 1 only to be cut the following week. He ended up on the Raiders practice squad and will likely be determined to not let that happen again. If Doss is to make this team, he needs to pray Gruden likes him enough to roll the dice on him, likely ahead of Ateman and Hatcher barring injury. If I was a betting man though, I would not be relying on Gruden.
This week the Rams came to training camp. We got to witness Jon Gruden claim (indirectly) that he had a say in the making of one of the NFL’s most trendy head coaches Sean McVay. And this may or may not be true. The main other topic of discuss was current defensive player of the year Aaron Donald’s unnatural build. My highlight, however, was Richie Incognito offering advice to his teammates after a tussle broke out between the Raiders and Rams front lines. Incognito said it was not worth it and used tactics he learned from counselling; counselling he likely received after he threw a dumbbell at a gym goer or when he became violent after being denied his dead father’s head for what he claimed to be “research purposes”. That is a role model all teams want and deserve.
The Rams game was all about the Raiders’ quarterback contest. Back up quarterback contest that is. Mike Glennon started and got positive remarks from Gruden who regular talked to people on the other end of his headset. Well at least I hope he was talking to someone. Glennon went on to throw 2 bad interceptions. Personally I like Glennon but Gruden didn’t seem too hot on him after that. Next up it was Nathan Peterman’s turn. After a rough start and strong words from Gruden, he took flight on a 50 yard run that redeemed himself and was possibly the pinnacle of his NFL career. Well probably not but HBO tried to make it seem like that with not one but two slowmo replays and Jon Gruden whispering to himself “that’s my guy”. They continued to hype up his throw to Doss in the next play for a TD. I suppose when making a documentary about a preseason game against the Rams with no regular season starters whatsoever playing, you really have to appreciate the little things.
And finally to Antonio Brown. Much of this we expected to see as he has been making NFL news for weeks now. We got to see his circumcised feet and hear his side of the story. It sounded and looked awfully grim to be honest. He then disappeared and took grievance against the NFL over his new helmet. What was new to me was the continuous comments from Gruden about AB. He did seem excited but also worried. He often referred to the media that AB was “gathering clues and information”. And at the end of the episode, we saw Gruden tell the media that he sided with AB on the helmet issue. I think Gruden loves and hates AB for what he is doing. in football terms, he hates him not being there to practice with and build a rapour with Carr. However, he knows deep down that being in camp with AB could lead to team disputes and AB antics have taken the rest of his team’s and his actions out of the limelight.
I hope this is a once off but I feel this week’s episode was definitely below par. We know AB returns next week so hopefully some drama follows him. The Raiders take on the Cardinals in their second preseason game with likely cuts being made to start cut the panel down to the 53 required. Let’s hope Keelan Doss manages to hold on for a few weeks yet, only to have his dreams destroyed in the season finale.