Best moment: Opening scene
HBO always has unmatched production for everything they do, but it felt like the introduction of this year’s Hard Knocks took things up a notch with the “August Wind” voiceover and the black/white/silver imagery—both present day and the past—to accompany it. This being the last year the Raiders will play in Oakland made the scene all the more important, and it was a good way to set the tone for the five-episode season.
Worst moment: Johnathan Abram gets too aggressive
Abram was the No. 27 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft because he is an alpha enforcer on the backend, but as head coach Jon Gruden tried explaining to him, he’s in the NFL now and can’t be taking teammates to the ground in practice (especially the non-padded ones). Then, making things even worse, linebacker Tahir Whitehead and a couple others tried defending Abram when he was clearly in the wrong. If the rookie doesn’t have an off switch, his act could quickly grow thin.
Funniest moment: Jon Gruden talks about the compliance officer
As always, there were a few funny moments (including Antonio Brown’s kids asking “Where’s Roethlisberger?”), but Gruden talking about following rules in the staff meeting was hilarious. The world has changed since the time when two-a-days were commonplace, and Gruden—an old-school coach—joked that he had a nightmare that the compliance guy was watching him sleep, which got a chuckle out of general manager Mike Mayock and the rest of the staff.
Underrated moment: This guy’s face in the hot air balloon
— Josh Rowntree (@JRown32) August 7, 2019
Best quote: Jon Gruden
“I’m not really into dreams anymore, OK? I’m into f***ing nightmares.”
MVP: Jon Gruden
Unless people are completely blinded by preconceived notions, Gruden is going to earn a bunch of fans over the next month, and Episode 1 was a great start. First of all, he opened camp with a fiery speech (including the quote above) about their goals to play in the Super Bowl, and later, the release of Ronald Ollie showed he will hold players accountable if they want to be a part of the Raiders. Gruden also has a fun side to him, though, and you have to respect his request that there be no rookie hazing (because playing in the NFL is difficult enough as it is). He didn’t want to be on the show, but Hard Knocks is Gruden’s chance to shift the perception.