EJ Manuel

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

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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.”

Three things you need to know after Raiders' 30-17 loss to Ravens

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Three things you need to know after Raiders' 30-17 loss to Ravens

OAKLAND – Three things you need to know about the Raiders’ 30-17 loss to the Ravens in Week 5 on Sunday:

1. Raiders aren’t rebounding well

The Raiders have lost three straight games, and looked terrible doing it. They’ve started slow, struggled on third down offensively and defensively. Perceived strengths now look suspect, and the Raiders are reeling after failing to the Ravens Sunday afternoon.

The biggest takeaway: The Raiders haven’t responded well to adversity.

They were beat soundly by Washington in Week 3. They didn’t get off the mat against Denver in Week 4. They fell behind early against Baltimore and never recovered.

That leaves the Raiders in a rough spot, below .500 for the first time since 2015. They deserve to be there after a brutal stretch of play.

“It hurts, but Coach Jack said it best. You get what you earn,” strong safety Karl Joseph said. “We’ve earned 2-3. We have to dig ourselves out.”

2. Turnover drought continues

The 2016 Raiders defense wasn’t great. They allowed too many yards, too many points for Raider Nation’s liking. They made up for last year’s shortcomings by performing well under pressure.

They were solid in the fourth quarter and tallied 30 takeaways across all periods.

They can’t fall back on that early this season. The Raiders are struggling to create turnovers.

They have two defensive takeaways in five games now – two more came on special teams – and no interceptions to speak of. By contrast, the Ravens have nine.

The Raiders had a plus-16 turnover ratio last season. This year, they’re even.

That makes it especially hard to overcome slow starts, without the big plays required to turn on a dime.

“You have to be more opportunistic in practice, going after the ball,” Bruce Irvin said. “It starts there. You develop the second nature when you continuously do it in practice. It translates to Sunday. Be more aware of trying to get the ball in practice translates on Sunday.”

3. EJ Manuel a solid secondary option

Starting quarterback Derek Carr pushed to play Sunday, exactly a week after suffering a transverse process fracture in his back. That didn’t happen.

The Raiders started backup EJ Manuel, who was decent in extended action. He completed 13-of-26 passes for 159 yards and a touchdown in Sunday’s loss. He extended drives with his legs, and came up big on several third downs.

“EJ pulled his heart out of his chest, especially on a few of those scrambles, getting the ball to playmakers to make plays,” tight end Jared Cook said. “He had one heck of a game, in my opinion.”

He ultimately didn’t score enough to erase a 21-3 lead, but certainly inspired confidence should he be called upon again.

He might not. Carr’s expected to play next week against the Los Angeles Chargers, and would take every snap thereafter if he remains healthy.

“I thought he did a pretty solid job as a backup guy coming into a tough situation and handled himself well,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “Made a couple of third downs. Kept the drive, couple of key third downs and took them down to their lake to get within a score. We’ve got to do more defensively to get him more opportunities.”

Instant Analysis: Raiders can't overcome early deficit, lose third straight

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Instant Analysis: Raiders can't overcome early deficit, lose third straight

BOX SCORE

OAKLAND – This Raiders season started so well. The first two games went according to plan, easy victories that supported 2017’s lofty expectations.

Then the wheels came off. The Raiders got beat soundly by Washington. They couldn’t keep pace with Denver. And then got owned by the Baltimore Ravens at home.

Sunday’s 30-17 result had little to do with quarterback Derek Carr being sidelined with a bad back. EJ Manuel played well enough.

The Raiders defense got beat time and again on third down, and rarely kept the Ravens off the scoreboard.

The Silver and Black are below .500 following a three-game losing streak that has changed the course of season’s first half.

Sunday’s game was a ‘W’ on paper, especially after Baltimore got beat soundly the past two weeks. It didn’t play out that way.

The Raiders fell down two scores in a flash, and never recovered.

Joe Flacco hit Mike Wallace on a 52-yard bomb to start the game and never looked back. The Ravens scored on their opening possession and the Raiders’ first drive, thanks to a Jared Cook fumble recovered by Jimmy Smith and returned 46 yards for a touchdown.

Baltimore scored on defense and its first three possessions to take a commanding 24-10 halftime lead.

The Raiders’ lone first-half highlight came on a broken play. Manuel bought time in the pocket and threw a 41-yard touchdown strike to Michael Crabtree. That cut the Ravens lead to 21-10.

Baltimore’s offense made it tough to catch up, with one scoring drive after another.

That didn’t stop the Raiders from trying. The deficit dipped to one score late in the third quarter with a Marshawn Lynch touchdown run. Manuel made that drive happen with two key third-down conversions using his legs.

The Ravens re-established their two-score lead with a field goal on the following drive.

The Raiders never got close, and lost their third straight contest.

Smith gets beat (early and often): The Raiders were down David Amerson and Gareon Conley heading into this one, leaving Sean Smith in a vital role at outside cornerback. He has proven vulnerable to speed in the past, and the Ravens capitalized on it. Mike Wallace beat Smith deep twice in the first half on drives that became Ravens touchdowns.

The Raiders couldn’t adjust much with so few defensive backs available, putting them at risk most of the day.

Cooper’s slump continues: Amari Cooper’s unproductive run continued against the Ravens. He had one catch for eight yards in this one, the fourth-straight poor performance by the two-time Pro Bowler.

Carr a no-go: Raiders quarterback Derek Carr pushed to be available for Sunday’s game despite suffering a transverse process fracture the week before, but was ultimately ruled inactive as expected.

He should be back in time to play the Los Angeles Chargers next week.

Raiders shift to Manuel: EJ Manuel started in Derek Carr’s place Sunday afternoon, and wasn’t half bad. Buoyed by a strong running game, he was able to connect on some passes and finished 13-of-26 passing for 159 yards and one touchdown.