On August 6, 2019, the 14th season of Hard Knocks, the annual HBO show that gives an in-depth look inside an NFL team’s training camp, will air and showcase the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders had one of the more notable offseason’s as they acquired star wide receiver Antonio Brown from the Pittsburgh Steelers in March.
The team was one of five finalists to be showcased this season on Hard Knocks, along with the Lions, Giants, 49ers, and Redskins.
Although the Raiders aren’t expected to be playoff contenders at all this season, the team and it’s head coach, Jon Gruden, have enough appeal that fans pushed hard for the Raiders to be showcased.
As with any season of Hard Knocks, there are certain players that fans want to see prioritized on the show while little-known players become fan favorites with each passing episode.
With that being said, here are the top five reasons why you’ll want to tune into Hard Knocks this summer.
1. Antonio Brown
Antonio Brown has performed like a Hall of Fame-caliber wide receiver since the day he was drafted by the Steelers, racking up 11,207 yards and 74 touchdowns in nine seasons. He’s had six straight seasons of 1200+ yards while serving as Ben Roethlisberger’s top guy.
But Brown forced his way out of Pittsburgh this offseason and will go from catching passes from Big Ben to catching passes from Derek Carr, a sizeable downgrade.
While watching Brown perform in training camp should be a treat, it will be far more interesting to see how he acclimates to Oakland and whether his teammates accept him with open arms. Brown notoriously left last season’s Week 17 game early after having a practice confrontation earlier in that week.
Since then, he routinely threw Roethlisberger under the bus and attempted to embarrass fellow WR Juju Smith-Schuster on social media. Ultimately, the combination of Brown’s talents and off-the-field antics should make him a must-follow for the Hard Knocks cameras.
Football fans became accustomed to hearing Gruden each week while he broadcasted games for Monday Night Football but the coach took the Raiders head coaching job in 2018. After a controversial trade of star DE Khalil Mack, which many believed was orchestrated by Gruden, the Raiders finished 4-12 and earned a last-place finish in the AFC West.
The mix of Gruden’s passion and fire and football lingo (“Spider 2Y Banana”) made Gruden a spectacle during his first coaching stint in the NFL and now the Hard Knocks cameras will allow fans to see a day in the life of Jon Gruden, over and over again.
The constant sparring between Gregg Williams and Todd Haley’s on last season’s Hard Knocks was one of the best moments of the show, proving that coaches can bring more entertainment than the players.
Richie Incognito and Vontaze Burfict
What happens when you acquire the dirtiest player on offense and the dirtiest player on defense and put them on the same team? Most likely absolute chaos, which should make for amazing television this summer. Incognito infamously was involved in a bullying scandal in 2013, in which he routinely harassed teammate Jonathan Martin.
Last year, Incognito was arrested after threatening to shoot funeral home employees after his father’s funeral. As for Burfict, he knocked out Antonio Brown with a head-to-head hit in a playoff game in 2016 and was suspended for three games. Burfict was suspended for five games in 2017 after an illegal blindside block. He was fined for another illegal hit to Brown in 2018.
Having these two guys in training camp together will be highly entertaining or incredibly scary.
Gruden praised Nathan Peterman before the 2017 NFL Draft and now he has the chance to coach him. However, Peterman has quickly gone from a potential steal to the laughingstock of the NFL. Peterman, in his first NFL start, threw five interceptions against the Chargers in the first half and also threw an interception to cap off a playoff loss to the Jaguars.
With the pressure of the Hard Knocks cameras on him, will Peterman crumble in practice? Will other players bully him for his lack of accuracy? Or will he turn into a star? Who knows, which is why it should be fun to watch Peterman on Hard Knocks.
Renfrow was a star wide receiver for Clemson during his four years with the Tigers. The 5’10” Renfrow won two national championships and is best known for his championship-winning touchdown catch to beat Alabama with one second left in 2017. Renfrow, who was drafted 149th overall by Oakland, is an undersized gritty wide receiver who had 186 catches in four seasons.
Now, Renfrow has to prove that he can overcome his lack of size in the NFL to make an impact. It will be interesting to see how well the popular receiver adjusts to going against an NFL defense on Hard Knocks. He may not be a notable name to the casual NFL fan but he might turn out to be a steal and a fan favorite by the end of the season.