*Just like you guys, we're tuning in every Tuesday night to watch Hard Knocks: Training Camp With The Oakland Raiders. Following each of the five episodes, the Raiders.com staff will recap what happened over the course of the program and look at some of the biggest questions they have following the viewing.
So, what happened?
After nearly two months of guessing about what the Silver and Black on Hard Knocks would look like, we finally got our answer Tuesday evening.
There were a lot of elements of Episode 0I that we expected – Coach Gruden was stellar, per usual, there was a big focus on the team's trio of first-round picks, and, yes, slow-mo makes everything look cooler.
That said, there were a few things in the premier episode that admittedly did surprise me, perhaps most noticeably that Jonathan Abram is apparently an accomplished horseman?
Anyways, I digress…. So, what exactly happened in Episode 0I?
Well, we open in Napa with Coach Gruden doing what he does best, getting the troops ready to rock, and I'll be honest with you guys, I was ready to give the man the best quarter of my life after hearing his "I'm more into nightmares" speech.
We then backtrack to Miami and catch up with Antonio Brown three days before training camp, where we see AB back in Florida working out, and spending a little time with his kids.
From there, we teleport back to California to link up with the man charged with getting AB the football in 2019, Derek Carr, in his final days before heading up to his sixth camp as a Raider.
Next up, the hot air balloon.
You all saw Antonio Brown arrive to Napa via hot air balloon – hopefully on Raiders.com – but unsurprisingly Hard Knocks wanted a piece of the action, and in a move that surprised no one, Mr. Big Chest's descent into Napa led off the show's classic "arrival to camp" segment.
After everyone gets settled into the Napa Valley Marriott, we find ourselves in the opening team meeting where Coach Gruden lays down four simple rules for camp:
1. Don't be late
2. Don't be overweight
3. Work hard
4. Use common sense.
You can tell just how much Gruden is in his element talking to the team, and all kidding aside, the man is one heck of an orator.
Hard Knocks is a football show, not a speech debate though, so our look into the meeting is a short one, before we eventually end up back on the practice field where we hear former Raiders wide receiver James Jones tell the Derek Carr origin story to Antonio Brown, a tale that ultimately concludes in DC being named the team's starting quarterback prior to Week 1 of the 2014 regular season.
During this time, we also meet Ronald Ollie – an undrafted free agent who grew to fame on the Netflix show "Last Chance U" – however, our time with Mr. Ollie is short, as an injury, and subsequent issues with recovery force Gruden and General Manager Mike Mayock to make a change.
And yes, we finally arrive at the horses.
Jonathan Abram and Clelin Ferrell steal the show in Episode 01 with their off-day jaunt through a vineyard on a pair of beautiful steeds. Throughout their time riding through Napa Valley, we learn a lot about the two rookies, including the fact that Abram raised a pair of horses.
What a world.
Words can't really do the segment justice, so you'll just have to watch.
The other big theme of Tuesday's debut episode is young Mr. Abram getting a little, shall we say, aggressive, in practice.
The hard-hitting safety was drafted this year to be just that – a big hitter – but it was really interesting to see Gruden talk to the rookie about finding the balance between being aggressive while also taking care of himself and his teammates.
For what it's worth, I thought that exchange between Gruden and Abram on the sideline during walk-thru was the best interaction of the entire premier.
The episode continues to weave through the story of the Raiders first two weeks in Napa, before ultimately drawing to a close with the theme of "family."
From alumni weekend, to the player's family day, I thought Hard Knocks did a good job of showing the family environment that permeates the Silver and Black.
Family, football, and a little bit of attitude - that's Raiders football, baby.
I can't shake this Jonathan Abram, horse thing, so let me just rapid fire a few queries that I have:
Where are Jonathan's horses now?
What are said horse's name?
Is Abram some type of cowboy/did he ever compete in a rodeo?
Also, completely unrelated to the horses, but does the rookie safety really know how to pronounce salmon? Did he even order the salmon when the rookies were out with DC and the quarterbacks?
Another one on the way out – I wonder what the last nightmare that Coach Gruden actually had was.
No disrespect to Gerald Eazy, but this one's not even close.
The Mayor of Flavortown, Mr. Guy Fieri himself owns the Best Cameo of the Week, for his brief appearance during one of the Silver and Black's practices.
Go back and watch the segment where Fieri makes his cameo, but this time watch the faces of the offensive linemen when they get to pay respects to the culinary innovator, those dudes are fired up.
Dugga dugga, Guy. Dugga dugga.
It has to be Jonathan Abram, right?
From the horse riding, to giving DC a hard time for the M's in his bank account, and having to be toned down during a walk-thru, Abram is my dude this week.
Will anyone come for his television crown? Coach Gruden will at some point, believe that, but Tuesday belonged to the rookie.
Stay entertaining, young fella.
The coaching staff are establishing a system and a mindset at training camp; take a look.
Quote of the Episode:
There's only one quote – you all know that – and it comes courtesy of Coach Gruden.
"I'm really not into dreams anymore, OK? I'm into [expletive] nightmares. You guys with me on that? You've got to end somebody's dream. You gotta take their job. You gotta take their heart. You guys clear about this NFL [expletive] now? We're not trying to go to the Peach Bowl. We're not trying to go to the Gator Bowl, or the Bluebonnet Bowl. We're trying to go to the Super Bowl, and to do that, you gotta really try to end somebody's dreams."
S/O to the Bluebonnet Bowl too.
Next week, on Hard Knocks…
Looks like we're going to get a heavy dose of footage from the upcoming joint practices with the Los Angeles Rams.
Who wants to set the over/under on Gruden/McVay daps that are shown throughout the episode?