Connor Cook

Raiders trade for QB AJ McCarron, release Connor Cook

Raiders trade for QB AJ McCarron, release Connor Cook

UPDATE (5:23 p.m.): The Raiders made the trade official, and announced their 53-man roster. The original story is as follows.

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Raiders coach Jon Gruden said last week that quarterback Derek Carr's backup might not be on the roster. 

He was right. 

Gruden chose AJ McCarron over Connor Cook or EJ Manuel. The Raiders gave the Buffalo Bills a fifth-round draft pick for the former Alabama quarterback Saturday, according to ESPN. 

Cook and Manuel underwhelmed in preseason and training camp, specifically in the second and third exhibitions that proved pivotal to their job status. 

Poor play cost Cook a roster spot. The 2016 fourth-round pick, whom the Raiders traded up to take, will be released. Manuel's job remains uncertain at this stage. 

McCarron has three starts to his credit over four years spent with the Cincinnati Bengals. He spent this offseason with the Bills and now is a Raider. 

McCarron will have to learn Gruden's system on the fly, meaning Derek Carr's health is even more vital than it was previously. McCarron struggled during his preseason with the Bills, completing 23 of 50 passes for 284 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions. 

Four Raiders to watch in exhibition finale at Seahawks

Four Raiders to watch in exhibition finale at Seahawks

SEATTLE – Most Raiders roster spots have been decided already, before Thursday’s exhibition finale against the Seahawks kicks off.

There’s a mountain of practice tape and game film to evaluate an 89-man roster that must get slashed by nearly half on Saturday afternoon. Performance in a game that will feature precious few contributors on either side will tip the scales.

Athletes will still be playing to realize a dream, however faint it might be. There will be some spots to keep an eye on. Here are four players or positions to follow as the preseason schedule comes to a close.

QBs EJ Manuel and Connor Cook

Derek Carr obviously isn’t playing this game, so backup quarterbacks who have underwhelmed this preseason will have one last chance to finish on a high note. It’s hard to say who has the edge here, though Cook has always been the first reserve in the game and Manuel has struggled with turnovers, a cardinal sin in Jon Gruden’s book.

The Raiders head coach said last week it’s possible Carr’s backup isn’t on the roster. Gruden should monitor the quarterback market both in free agency and trade. If Cook and Manuel struggle again Thursday against a significantly decreased level of competition, that’s a sign the Raiders might have little choice but to do something unwelcome and bring a new passer and teach him Gruden’s system on the fly.

WR Seth Roberts

Roberts played a ton last week against Green Bay, and Gruden said he might get Roberts in this game as well. After all, Roberts missed the first two exhibitions. Whether that’s to increase trade value or evaluate a slot receiver who isn’t entirely out of the mix remains unknown.

The slot has undergone some upheaval in recent days, with Ryan Switzer traded and Griff Whalen headed to injured reserve.

Roberts has been the Raiders’ primary slot receiver the past two seasons, and could get a longer look there if Gruden wants experience working inside. Amari Cooper and Jordy Nelson can fill that role as well – tight end Jared Cook can play there – but Roberts isn’t all the way off the roster yet. He hasn’t played special teams and that doesn’t bode well, but he’s an excellent run blocker and has made some clutch catches (and drops) in his day.

DEs Fadol Brown, Shilique Calhoun, Frostee Rucker 

Each member of this trio could make a case for a roster spot. Brown has proven the most explosive on defense. Calhoun has shown great improvement rushing off the edge, and can play on every special teams unit. Rucker could bring experience to a young position group.

All three making it is a pipe dream, even if Khalil Mack stays away beyond Saturday as expected. Two guys could hit the highway despite some deserving play. It will be interesting to see which guys play in this game, and how much they do.

Kicker Mike Nugent

The 36-year old was signed to help rookie Eddy Piñeiro get through his first preseason, and provide advice from 13 NFL seasons. Gruden said a kicking competition existed after Giorgio Tavecchio got cut, but it wasn’t truly open. The Raiders love Piñeiro’s accuracy, power and makeup.

A groin injury has thrown a wrench in the original plan. Piñeiro has been out since the last week of training camp, and Gruden hasn’t given an exact recovery timetable.

The head coach considered it possible Nugent could be the Raiders kicker in Week 1. Competition doesn’t matter in Nugent’s position. It’s all about accuracy and power. He has converted 3-of-4 field goal attempts, though his touchback rate is low. The Raiders can live with that if Nugent inspires confidence with accuracy on Thursday, showing he’s able to kick to start the Raiders season.

Raiders rally back, but fall short in preseason loss to Rams

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USATSI

Raiders rally back, but fall short in preseason loss to Rams

BOX SCORE

LOS ANGELES – The Raiders hadn’t played in Los Angles Memorial Coliseum since they returned to Oakland after the 1994 season. A loyal, passionate part of Raider Nation showed up for their team’s grand return, painting the stadium silver and black.

They didn’t get much of a show. Most understudies struggled mightily, producing a stinker even by the preseason’s incredibly low standards.

Head coach Jon Gruden sat 15 offensive players, including every member of the first unit. He sat six healthy defenders. That’s 21 impact athletes glued to the sideline.

Gruden was right to do so.

There’s no point giving firsthand looks to a team the Raiders play in Week 1. Gruden was flummoxed by the Rams scheduling, with a Monday Night Football game against them just three weeks after Saturday’s preseason game.

A 19-15 loss to the Los Angeles Rams didn’t say much about the Raiders as a whole. Too many headliners out for that.

Gruden used this time to evaluate players down the depth chart fighting for roster spots. Backups got long looks they won’t receive next week against Green Bay, when starters are expected to play a half, maybe into the third quarter.

Chris Warren III capitalized on extensive snaps. The former Texas running back likely cemented his roster spot after another productive day, with 110 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. He’s a tough runner that Gruden likes, and could develop into a productive option in 2018 and years after that.

He could be the only undrafted rookie save kicker Eddy Pineiro to make the squad.

The Raiders starting secondary played early on, with Gareon Conley and Rashaan Melvin working at outside cornerback with safeties Reggie Nelson and Karl Joseph.

That group looked good, with Melvin especially strong in coverage. Conley was fine in his first game in almost a year, and will surely knock off rust as the preseason progresses.

Connor Cook and EJ Manuel rotated into the game throughout, though neither passer played particularly well. Cook started the game, struggled in the first half and was 6-for-12 passing for 49 yards and a wonky lost fumble that sure looked like an incomplete pass.

EJ Manuel wasn’t much better. He was 10-for-16 passing for 89 yards and lost a fumble trying to scramble for yards. He threw a late touchdown to Griff Whalen that kept the score close.

The crowd erupted then and at several moments, seemingly set on getting their money’s worth. Most stayed to the end, and enjoyed late-game drama when the score got close.

That will happen when a team returns after more than 20 years.