Observations From Episode 1: Hard Knocks Eases Into Raiders Training Camp
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

HBO’s ‘Hard Knocks’ is among the best shows out there — and to see it come to visit Jon Gruden and the Oakland Raiders was a dream come true…in some ways.

As a Raider fan, we’ve been the laughingstock of the league for the past few years — and so I recognized that having HBO come to town would mean one of two things: either Gruden comes across as a competent coach running a competent organization, or the spotlight gets shined on the dysfunction (see: Jackson, Hue). Of all things, to be honest, it was this that captured most of my attention.

The good news of Episode 1? Nothing crazy happened! Antonio Brown was doing Antonio Brown things, Gruden was everything you expected and even Richie Incognito tried his hardest to make you forget his history of instability. Phew.

So with that out of the way, here are a few more episode one observations…

Jonathan Abram is…something

The Raiders rookie safety made headlines after being picked in the first round because his message to Gruden on draft night was simple: “I’m gonna light your — up (coach)”. Well, apparently that type of attitude wasn’t due to a flood of emotion, it’s just who this guy is.

At one point in the episode, Gruden pulled Abram aside during practice to tell him he needed to stop hitting his own teammates (you know, since they weren’t wearing pads). Abram’s response was shocking: he acted like a six-year-old talking back to their parents. While a “yes, Coach” may have been assumed, you could tell Gruden was a bit irked with the argument that ensued.

The same type of attitude came later in the episode when Derek Carr took the rookies out for dinner. Abram, rather than being outwardly appreciative, just wanted to point out how rich Carr was before claiming he was going to order everything on the menu (including salmon, which he was uninterested in pronouncing correctly).

Abram looks like he’ll be the star of the show this season, but I’m not sure how much more I can take without getting to see him light some people up first.

Ronald Ollie, thanks for coming

The ‘Last Chance U’ star, who was an undrafted free agent didn’t even make it out of Episode 1 before seeing his roster spot disappear. It’s always hard to watch a guy who needed to earn everything act like he deserved something — which is exactly what happened here. Ollie got hurt during practice and then failed to show up for treatment — and, well, that kind of apathy will get you sent packing.

“Where’s Roethlisberger?” 

The quote of the night went to Antonio Brown’s kids, who looked around at practice asking where Big Ben was. With a smile on his face, Brown explained that he’s got a new quarterback now in Carr, or as Brown’s kids pronounced it, “Derek Carter.”

Raider history lesson

The two coolest moments of the show revolved around some Raider history. First, “The Autumn Wind” got prominent play twice during the episode — showcasing the spirit of the Raiders that Gruden and Co. are eager to reclaim. The other cool moment was a clip of John Madden talking about the “seven-man-sled”, which the Raiders used as the voice of Madden played over the top.

All in all, it was a relatively quiet episode — but with the seeds that were planted, I’d imagine things pick up pretty quick next week with the Los Angeles Rams in town.