On Saturday, word got out that Las Vegas Raiders starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo would be ruled out for the Week 4 contest against the Los Angeles Chargers. Garoppolo was placed in concussion protocol after the team's loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, and once ruled out, it was a question of whether the Raiders would start veteran Brian Hoyer, or rookie Aidan O'Connell against their AFC West rival.
In the end, O'Connell got the starting nod, and as expected, he had some growing pains early in the team's 24-17 loss on Sunday. O'Connell was plagued by fumbling early in his start, but to be fair, one could have been ruled an incomplete pass, and the other, Kolton Miller was pushed into him by Khalil Mack.
On a side note, Mack was outstanding against the Raiders on Sunday, racking up six sacks in a dominant effort against right tackle Jermaine Eluemunor.
After the early fumbles, O'Connell displayed the kind of poise that made him one of the must-see players of the NFL's 2023 preseason. He threw the ball all over the field against Los Angeles, and seemed steady in the pocket, which was impressive considering how much pressure he was up against all game long.
It was a gutsy performance from the 2023 fourth-round pick, and one that I believed earned him the starting nod in Week 5 whether or not Garoppolo is ready to go.
Raiders should stick with O'Connell in Week 5
O'Connell finished the game 24-of-39 passing for 238 yards and an interception, one that iced the game for the Chargers. That pick came after O'Connell led the Raiders on a touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, and after a Las Vegas stop on defense, the Silver and Black had a great chance to tie the game.
The rookie signal-caller hit Davante Adams on a crucial 4th-and-10 from the Chargers 22 yard line, setting up a first-and-goal from the 3. Unfortunately for O'Connell, and Raider Nation, Josh McDaniels called a terrible play, and Asante Samuel Jr. was waiting with open arms for the interceptions.
While the pick ended the Raiders chances, and the early fumbles put the team in a hole in the first half, O'Connell deserves to take the field with the 1s next weekend against the Green Bay Packers in primetime. Sunday was a good indication that O'Connell could have what it takes to be a very good player at the next level, and McDaniels would be wise to roll with him in Week 5.