Rookie QB Cook thrown into fire in Raiders loss, may start vs Texans

Rookie QB Cook thrown into fire in Raiders loss, may start vs Texans

DENVER – Raiders quarterback Connor Cook hasn’t been getting many practice reps this year. No. 3 signal callers get scraps, with most work going to starter Derek Carr and primary backup Matt McGloin.

Cook was being groomed for the future. Then Carr broke a fibula last week. Then McGloin hurt his shoulder in the second quarter of Sunday’s 24-6 loss to the Denver Broncos.

Then Cook under center in a game to decide the AFC West. It’s also possible he’ll start a playoff game next week. Talk about a trial by fire.

Cook played nine series against the Broncos, and was 14-for-21 passing for 150 yards, a touchdown, an ill-advised interception and a lost fumble while under duress.

There were good moments and rookie mistakes for the fourth-round pick from Michigan State in his first NFL action.

“It was fast,” Cook said. “Obviously, going the whole week not getting a lot of reps and just being thrown out there. It’s just the name of the game. When you’re playing the quarterback spot, if one man goes down then it’s next man up. I was frustrated I didn’t get out there and get some reps. I was trying to get the timing down with the receivers, but it didn’t go the way we wanted it to go.

“Any time you go out there and get some reps, you get a little confidence going and get experience, it’s going to help you out in the future.”

That’s important, because he might have to be ready for the franchise’s biggest game in years. The Raiders travel to Houston next weekend for the playoff opener, and McGloin’s shoulder/neck injury may prevent him from making that start.

That would set up Cook to start his first NFL game in the playoffs.

Cook says he won’t change his preparation next week with a greater possibility he could start.

“I’m going to do what I’ve been doing all year,” Cook said. “When I was inactive, I was still watching film and still studying the game plan and going over everything – my reads, my hots and all that. It’s not going to change anything for me. I’m going to still prep as if I’m playing, it doesn’t matter if I’m backup, starter or whatever.”

Additional practice reps could certainly help. On Sunday, he was running some plays for the first time.

“It’s not getting a whole lot of reps and just being thrown out there and running plays that I’ve never really ran before,” Cook said. “Working on those during the week, getting extra reps and extra practice on those plays I think can help out.”

Cook represented himself well despite adverse circumstances, and his teammates tried to rally around him.

“I thought he did a good job considering it was his first time out there,” center Rodney Hudson. “Experience is the best teacher, and I’m sure he’ll get better and learn from this game.

Raiders retain E.J. Manuel, now have four QBs on the roster


Raiders retain E.J. Manuel, now have four QBs on the roster

The Raiders have a lot of quarterbacks under contract, certainly more than they’ll have come September.

That means the battle to be Derek Carr’s backup should be fierce. EJ Manuel had that title last year, with a shot to retain it after re-signing with the club on Thursday afternoon.

Veteran Josh Johnson signed up Monday, and those two will join third-year man Connor Cook behind Carr on the depth chart.

New head coach Jon Gruden loved Cook coming out of the draft, but the Michigan State alum failed to earn the backup job last season and must make a move up the depth chart to kickstart his career.

Manuel has a strong arm and starting experience, making him a steady and solid backup option. He completed 24-of-43 passes for 265 yards, a touchdown and an interception in two games when Carr was hurt.

Johnson might be a camp arm at this point, though he’ll be given a chance to compete this spring and summer.

Carr has been hurt for at least a small stretch in each of the last two seasons. Having Manuel in that spot might offer stability.

Gruden addressed last year’s backup quarterbacks last month at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Gruden on Manuel: “I think EJ is a young, talented guy,” Gruden said. “He’s been in the facility working out on his own every day. There is a bright upside to him, too, as a young quarterback to keep working with. He’s a free agent, but the Philadelphia Eagles proved that’s a pretty damn important position, isn’t it? Right? So we have to address that and see where we are.”

Gruden on Cook: “I am kind of surprised Connor hasn’t played in two years, other than the playoff game he got in as a rookie. After Derek got hurt last year, they turned the ball to EJ. I don’t know where Connor Cook is. I am frustrated right now that I can’t spend any time with him, but, April 9th (when the Raiders offeseason program starts) will be an exciting day for me and Connor Cook.”

Raiders sign tackle Breno Giacomini


Raiders sign tackle Breno Giacomini

The Raiders need help at right tackle, the lone vacancy along their offensive line. They signed a veteran presence on Thursday afternoon, adding 32-year old Breno Giacomini as the frontrunner to join the starting five.

He has 86 starts in 94 career games, and has been a full-time starter three of the last four years. Giacomini spent 2017 in Houston and the previous three seasons with the New York Jets.

He was a Seattle Seahawk before that, working with Raiders offensive line coach Tom Cable for three of his four years there. Cable gave Giacomini his first chance to start in the second half of 2011, and held the post through 2012.

The bond between the two is clearly strong, considering what Giacomini tweeted shortly after Cable got fired in Seattle.

Coach and player will reunite, hoping to provide steadiness on the right side of the Raiders offensive line.

He’ll compete for a starting spot with Vadal Alexander, second-year pros David Sharpe and Jylan Ware and possibly a drafted player. Giacomini should be considered the favorite unless the Raiders use an early pick on an offensive lineman.

Giacomini has plenty of starts, but his Pro Football Focus numbers aren’t pretty. The analytics says he allowed nine sacks, eight quarterback hits and 64 pressures with Houston last year. He had some decent years under Cable, and a return to that form might push him into the starting lineup for good. Time will tell on that front.