UPDATE (Wednesday morning at 10:35am PT) -- Connor Cook will start against the Texans on Saturday, the Raiders announced.
ALAMEDA – The Raiders haven’t formally announced their starting quarterback for Saturday’s playoff opener against the Houston Texans.
Their intentions aren’t a well-kept secret. Connor Cook is expected to make his first NFL start in the playoffs, something no player in league history has done.
Raiders players discussed that fact on Tuesday, and a league source confirmed it later in the afternoon.
NFL Network first reported Tuesday morning that the Raiders were operating with the expectation Cook would start.
The fourth-round pick out of Michigan State was thrust into action midway through Sunday’s 24-6 loss at Denver after Matt McGloin injured his neck/shoulder.
Having Cook start isn’t just based upon health. Cook fared better that McGloin against Denver, something clear to Raiders coaches after analyzing the game tape.
It’s also uncertain how much McGloin will be able to practice, and the Raiders need to get a quarterback ready to play an important game on a short week.
The Raiders believe Cook is the healthier and better option, one who can get the job done against the Texans. While most haven’t worked with Cook much this regular season, they believe he can execute under the bright lights.
“(Cook) has really worked hard, all the way from training camp,” running back Jalen Richard said. “I would say he’s one of the hardest working rookies on the team. He was working on his craft every day after practice, not knowing when his moment would come.
“Look at him now. His moment is here. I feel like he’s ready for it, and we have all the confidence in him.”
Cook was 14-for-21 for 150 yards passing, one touchdown and an interception. He also fumbled twice and lost one. He also orchestrated the Raiders’ only touchdown drive since Derek Carr broke his right fibula in Week 16. Cook has arm talent and poist in the pocket, which he flashed at times against Denver.
“I think he did a pretty good job, especially coming in after having not played all year,” receiver Amari Cooper said. “He did a nice job going through his reads and stepping up in the pocket and making some good throws.
“He was really good out there. He was talking us up and making sure we stayed encouraged out there. I really like him.”
The Raiders are expected to start a third different quarterback in as many weeks. Cook faces a difficult task. He will lead the team into the playoffs and the Raiders have to find a way to establish chemistry and a game plan that works for a player who hasn’t seen many practice reps during the regular season. He hadn’t worked with the starting lineup before last week, and ran some plays against Denver he had never practiced.
The Raiders have to make the best of the situation, especially those employed to work in cohesion with the quarterback.
“We have to rally around him,” Cooper said, “and make him confident in us by getting open and things like that.”