What an episode. Just like the first two weeks of Hard Knocks, this one did not disappoint, giving us a look at the Raiders’ preparation for the Cardinals as well as how the team is handling the Antonio Brown drama.
The episode began in the Raiders’ main meeting room, and like last week there were some called up to sing. This time, Jon Gruden’s name was called, but it wasn’t Gruden himself who answered the bell. It was Frank Caliendo, doing his best Gruden impression, skewering Hunter Renfrow and drawing wild laughter from the Raiders players. Caliendo’s Gruden impression is one of his most famous, and after hearing the real Gruden and how close the voice and mannerisms are, it’s easy to see why.
Focus then shifted to the tight end battle, with Hard Knocks making it clear there were four spots for the Raiders’ six tight ends. Darren Waller is the presumed #1 tight end on the team, and he opened up about his sordid past and his two-year sobriety. Footage was shown of Waller in Ravens camp, where Waller claims he was high all day every day, and Waller certainly looked out of it. Conversely, at Raiders camp, Waller looked sharp and engaged and discussed his Madden rating with the visiting ratings adjusters. His rating of 68 is sure to go way up sooner than later.
Luke Willson was also shown, and he of the long and flowing locks took a boat tour in the Bay and showed off his reliable hands in practice. Hunter Renfrow was also profiled, and his hands are as good as they come. Derek Carr teased him about being older than his professed age of 23, insisting that he was 37 and would only play three more years before retiring at 40.
The Raiders traveled to Arizona, where scene after scene of them kicking the Cardinals’ ass up and down the field was shown. Waller was the focus here, with Mike Glennon missing him in the end zone drawing ire from Gruden. But Glennon redeemed himself with a long bomb to Rico Gafford for a touchdown, and later Glennon threw a TD to Derek Carrier on a play that had seemingly been meant for Waller.
At the end, Antonio Brown and his helmet became the main topic. It had been discussed off and on throughout the episode, but Brown was presented as a well-meaning guy and a beloved teammate who had the full support of Gruden. Mayock was the clear bad cop here. At the very end of the episode, Brown appears in a helmet (!!!), catching passes one-handed from a machine. Fade to black.
If the Raiders really wanted to make their feelings known about the AB situation, they could have done so here. Instead they appear to be making it seem like not a big deal, like they are totally on top of what’s happening, which makes one wonder what the Mayock thing about being all-in or all-out is all about, because unless he’s playing hardass it doesn’t make much sense. Is the helmet saga over? Who knows, but we do know Brown practiced today in A helmet, so that’s nice.
Finally, where is Josh Jacobs? HK hasn’t profiled him at all and didn’t show his runs from the Cardinal game. Are they saving him or is he really trying to not be on the show?
Next week we’ll get coverage of the Packers game in Canada as well as whatever the next chapter of the Antonio Brown story may be.