Raiders

'Hard Knocks' Episode 3 recap: Raiders' overlooked weapons get some love

'Hard Knocks' Episode 3 recap: Raiders' overlooked weapons get some love

This week’s “Hard Knocks” episode was heavy on Antonio Brown.

Surprise, surprise.

This year’s Raiders training camp has been dominated by his frostbitten feet and his steadfast desire to wear the helmet he wants despite it not being certified and failing a safety test.

Non-AB segments of this show were also featured, focusing on Darren Waller, Hunter Renfrow and Luke Wilson.

Head coach Jon Gruden continues to carry the show more than anyone, showcasing a magnetic personality that is TV gold.

Let’s take a look a few non-AB things we learned on this week’s “Hard Knocks” episode:

Darren Waller’s easy to root for

Gruden often jokes that he’s trying to keep Darren Waller a secret. His talent won’t be kept quiet this fall, during what should be a breakout year for someone with unrealized potential.

Waller has no problem discussing how he set himself back. He recently celebrated two years clean and sober, and detailed how far he was willing to go for drugs of any kind, even if it meant hurting his NFL career.

“I was super burned out,” Waller said. “I wondered, ‘am I going to stick with it or not.’ I was plotting to sabotage myself on the way out of the league, so I didn’t look like a quitter. I was thinking the league would put me out of misery, and I’d just go about my business.”

Suffice it to say that didn’t happen. He served two suspensions for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy before going to rehab, getting clean and playing like he’s capable after the Raiders signed him off Baltimore’s practice squad.

Waller’s a great talent with an important role in this offense, and he’s expected to have a big year. Fans getting to know Waller on “Hard Knocks” will make the tight end easy to root for.

Hunter Renfrow keeps taking shots

Fifth-round rookie receiver and Clemson product Hunter Renfrow didn’t sing well last week and got flak for it, even from stand-up comic/Gruden impersonator Frank Caliendo. His hairline looks like it’s receding, and even Derek Carr has given him guff for it.

This best set-up and put down came this week, when Gruden said he wanted players who were bigger, faster and well-conditioned. Then he put up a picture of Renfrow shirtless at the NFL combine, sporting an uninspired physique.

It was a funny exchange Renfrow took in stride, and it was followed up by the fact he had an excellent training camp with a real shot to make a major contribution this season.

The best Renfrow dig came from defensive line coach and proud Clemson alum Brenston Buckner, who dropped this line: "When he first got to Clemson, some of the guys thought he was [an equipment] manager.”

Luke Willson can’t skip leg day

The “Hard Knocks” crew hung with veteran tight end Luke Willson during this episode, showing him on a boat with his dad, saying the Canadian looks like a hockey player and showing him knocking some helmets against Arizona.

Oh, and Willson’s dad said Luke always wanted to be a Hanson brother. The best part of Willson’s screen time was him relaying a request from Jon Gruden, that he get bigger calves.

I can understand why Willson’s podium session this week didn’t make the cut, considered he (jokingly) accused “Hard Knocks” editors of making it look like Johnathan Abram lit him up when he didn’t. He also downplayed his Canada connection just before heading up to Winnipeg.

[RELATED: Gruden says AB isn't Raiders distraction: 'All-in, ready to go']

AB makes stat nerds blush

Man. We couldn’t make it through this post without bringing up Antonio Brown. Sorry. His quote was too good to ignore, though we promise it has nothing to do with his feet or his head.

He was working with a private analytics expert, who was breaking down his speed and yards run compared to other top NFL receivers. Brown’s work rate is off-the-charts, and he clearly liked seeing that backed by numbers.

It prompted this gem, that stat nerds undoubtedly loved: “Women lie. Men lie. Analytics don’t.”

Johnathan Hankins loves being leader to young Raiders' defensive line

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Johnathan Hankins loves being leader to young Raiders' defensive line

ALAMEDA -- Johnathan Hankins isn’t even 28 years old yet feels like an old man working on the Raiders defensive front. The starting line features two rookies off the edge and a second-year man working next to him inside.

He is an elder statesman in that crew, with plenty of experience in his seventh year out of Ohio State. Hankins is having a blast with a young, developing crew, knowing he must anchor the defensive line and help those around him make plays.

“I’m just trying to do my best to lead the guys,” Hankins said on this week’s Raiders Talk podcast. “I’ve been here longer than most of the guys on this unit, and I try to show them what it takes to be a professional and pass along all the information I learned from the veterans I worked with way back when.”

Hankins is paying it forward now with words and action. His role at defensive tackle often helps create opportunities for others pushing the pocket back and shutting down the opposition’s interior run game.

The Raiders are better in that area thanks in large part to Hankins’ improvement within the system and are certainly thankful last year’s in-season signing has become a permanent fixture upfront.

Hankins was in a weird spot before joining the Raiders last year, cut just a year into a big three-year contract with Indianapolis because the Colts changed defensive schemes.

He found a proper fit in Oakland and was happy to re-up with them this offseason.

“There was a lot going on after I got released by the Colts, and I was trying to find a place that fits well with me and finding an organization that wanted me,” Hankins said. “That’s what it boiled to, and it has really worked out with the Raiders.”

[RELATED: Mullen's confidence grows as he develops on the job]

Hankins considers it destiny that he’s Raiders, the same team name he had as a 6-year old running back and kicker growing up in Detroit and nearby Dearborn, Mich. That’s where he grew (quite literally) into the dominant defensive force that earned an Ohio State scholarship and a second-round NFL draft slot.

“I’m just enjoying this ride,” Hankins said. “I’m trying to be at my best and show everyone watching that I’m still one of the best defensive tackles in this league. The goal is to get to 12 years, and I think I’m on my way.”

Raiders injury report: Hunter Renfrow could return later this season

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Raiders injury report: Hunter Renfrow could return later this season

ALAMEDA – Hunter Renfrow injured his ribs and punctured his lung during a Week 12 loss to the New York Jets, a scary situation that put the rest of his season in some jeopardy.

The Raiders couldn’t say for sure if he’d finish out his rookie season, where he made steady progress and ranked high among quarterback Derek Carr’s most reliable targets.

He didn’t play last week against Kansas City and won’t play Sunday against Tennessee at Oakland Coliseum, but could well come back down the stretch.

“We’re hopeful that he could return for the last game or two,” Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said. “We’re going to keep him on the active roster. We’ll do without him for another game or two, and we’re hoping to get him back for the Chargers game [in Week 16]. That’s on our wish list, our hope list right now for Hunter. We miss him.”

Renfrow wasn’t active on Wednesday, according to a practice estimation from the team. The Silver and Black conducted a walk-through session off-site, on a basketball court in Alameda to avoid inclement weather. The focus is teaching and the mental side of the game.

“We have made some adjustments to our roster, so we have gone inside to try to multiply our reps for a lot of people that we have to get ready to play,” Gruden said. “There are pros and cons to everything. I like to get a lot of reps in on Wednesday to teach the game plan and make sure they’re sound in their assignments. It’s not at the same speed, but it’s an important part of learning, especially the changes we have had at several positions.

“I think it has been beneficial. We’ll come out and run fast Thursday and Friday and get ready for the Titans.”

Running back Josh Jacobs was considered out on the team’s practice estimation with a shoulder injury. Right guard Trent Brown was considered a non-participant with a pectoral injury. He has been dealing with knee and ankle injuries in recent weeks.

[RELATED: Review-Journal: Should Raiders move on from Derek Carr?]

Raiders practice report

WEDNESDAY
Did not practice
WR Hunter Renfrow (rib)
RB Josh Jacobs (shoulder)
OT Trent Brown (pectoral)
LB Kyle Wilber (ankle)

Limited practice
C Rodney Hudson (ankle)
CB Lamarcus Joyner (hamstring)
RG Gabe Jackson (knee)

NOTE: The Raiders conducted a walk-through practice on Wednesday. Therefore, the participation report is an estimation.