With Derek Carr to barely play in the preseason opener against the Arizona Cardinals, what can the Oakland Raiders expect from EJ Manuel and Connor Cook?
It would be a total shocker to see starting quarterback Derek Carr play anything more than a series in the Oakland Raiders’ first preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals this evening. Given that he’s coming off a season-ending injury, Carr may not play at all. But what can we except to see out of his backups in EJ Manuel and Connor Cook?
Manuel is a former first-round pick by the Buffalo Bills in the 2013 NFL Draft out of Florida State. He was the only quarterback taken in the first round in that historically atrocious draft. It’s okay, most teams did a terrible job in that first round. Needless to say, it did not work out for Manuel in Orchard Park.
Manuel was 6-11 in 17 starts for the Bills. He has only appeared in 10 games once in his NFL career, that coming in his rookie campaign. Though he’s not a turnover machine with 19 touchdowns to 15 interceptions in his career, Manuel was not accurate enough of a passer to play in windy Western New York. He boasted only a 58.3 career completion percentage with the Bills.
In 2015, he would be beaten out by former backup quarterback of the Baltimore Ravens in Tyrod Taylor. Taylor added more of a dual-threat component to the passing game, was more accurate and less turnover prone. Frankly, Manuel got worse each year he was with the Bills.
That being said, a change of scenery from Western New York to the Bay Area has led to a great camp for Manuel. Carr has pointed out in a few press conferences that Manuel seems to enjoy playing football again. He is largely the guy that general manager Reggie McKenzie is replacing last year’s backup Matt McGloin with.
In short, Manuel is never going to be a starting level quarterback in the league. The game is too fast for him and he’s not accurate enough to win a bunch of games at the professional level. However, he does have the physical traits and the student mentality to eventually become a top-10 backup in football, possibly top-five. Maybe that’s with the Raiders?
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As for Cook, he was the guy that started the first playoff game for the Raiders in 14 years. While he completed 66.7 percent of his passes in his NFL debut in 2016, he wasn’t anywhere close to being that accurate against the Houston Texans. Cook managed to complete just 40 percent of his passes in the Raiders’ playoff loss.
Cook was a former fourth-round pick out of Michigan State. He was the quarterback that won the 2015 Big Ten Championship and reached the College Football Playoff. Cook is a tough player and a ruthless competitor, but honestly lacks the athleticism to be anything at the next level.
Even more troubling, he does not rise to the occasion against elite competition in a national stage. His Michigan State Spartans were obliterated by the Alabama Crimson in the College Football Playoff. You saw what happened in his epic quarterback battle with Tom Savage in the 2016 AFC Playoffs.
Do keep in mind that Oakland took Cook ahead of Dak Prescott in the fourth round. Not to say that Cook and Prescott are comparable players, but NFL scouts weren’t all that high on either player coming out of Power 5 schools.
Could Cook become a solid backup quarterback in the league? Maybe, but he will have to do that as a cerebral player. He wasn’t even voted captain his senior year in East Lansing. However, he did have command of a pro-style offense in college at Michigan State. It’ll be really interesting to see how he plays against the strong Cardinals secondary tonight.