Here’s a close look by the numbers at Tuesday’s fourth episode of HBO’s “Hard Knocks: Training Camp With the Oakland Raiders”:
2 – Rookies who have butchered Bill Withers’ “Lean on Me”
Clemson players seemingly can’t carry a tune.
In the second episode of “Hard Knocks”, rookie wide receiver Hunter Renfrow “sang” his rendition of Bill Withers’ hit song, “Lean on Me.” As you probably remember, he basically spoke it and it was terrible.
In Tuesday’s episode, rookie cornerback Trayvon Mullen also got in front of the group and performed a strikingly similar “Lean on Me.”
These guys apparently don’t understand that “sometimes” is one word and you can sing it in one breath.
Raiders coach Jon Gruden had apparently heard quite enough from both Renfrow and Mullen, based on the face he made.
— Oakland Raiders (@Raiders) August 28, 2019
“You guys got a hell of a football team at Clemson, but you’ve got the worst entertainers I’ve ever had here,” Gruden said, as Mullen got booed off the floor.
80 – Number of yards for the field in Winnipeg
As everyone knows by now, the Raiders and Green Bay Packers played on a shortened field for the third preseason game. Hard Knocks featured a couple exchanges with Gruden that illustrated his frustration with the circumstances.
First, cameras caught Gruden chatting with first-year Packers coach Matt LaFleur.
“You heard any word on the end zone?” LaFleur asked.
“It’s fine with us,” Gruden said. “It’s not Lambeau Field quality, I know. But we’re playing. You guys don’t want to play or what? In the end zone?”
“I said hey, I don’t really care,” LaFleur replied. “I just want to kick off and start playing ball.”
So the coaches got that settled, and clearly the game was played. But the cameras caught another conversation between starting quarterback Derek Carr — who wasn’t playing — and Gruden before kickoff.
Carr came up to Gruden and put his arm around his head coach, clearly trying to calm a frustrated Gruden. That prompted Gruden to say this:
“I’ve been playing in this game for a long time, man,” Gruden said. “You got some guy get off the bus and say he can’t play here. What?”
So that explains what Gruden said in his postgame press conference: “We thought the field was perfectly ready to roll. You’d have to ask Green Bay about that.”
$23,000 – Wide receiver Keelan Doss’ signing bonus
Doss has not just been one of the stars of “Hard Knocks,” but also one of the true standout players during Raiders camp.
In last week’s comeback victory over the Packers, Doss had four catches for 52 yards — including an impressive toe-tapping catch on the right sideline. Based on this episode of “Hard Knocks,” that prompted Gruden to switch from, “I like Keelan Doss” — which he’d said earlier in the game — to “I love Keelan Doss.”
But that $23,000 signing bonus is an important number because it speaks to how much the Raiders liked Doss before they signed him. Each team is allotted a set amount of money to spend on UDFAs after the draft, and bonuses usually go from about $1,000 to $15,000.
That means the Raiders had a good idea Doss could work well as a wide receiver in their system, and so far that’s turned out to be true. Doss’ performance in August has put him in a good spot to make the Raiders’ final roster.
Infinity — “Knock on wood if you’re with me”
Gruden has repeated the mantra throughout the series when he wants to make sure the players are paying attention and understand the coaching point he’s just made.
On Tuesday’s episode of “Hard Knocks,” the series took the saying to a whole new level, first by putting together the times Gruden has said it to the team. Then the producers actually made the mantra into a song and played practice highlights over the music.
Clearly everyone working on the series recognizes how integral knocking on wood is to what the Raiders are doing behind the scenes — especially since comedian Frank Caliendo said it during last week’s episode while impersonating Gruden.