In 2017, the first preseason game made it appear as though E.J. Manuel was going to run away with the Raiders backup quarterback job. But then they played the final three preseason games leading up to week one and Manuel was given the backup role if for no other reason than because he sucked a little bit less than Connor Cook did in those final three games.
Which is why it’s far too early to crown Cook to be Derek Carr’s backup despite his strong start to the preseason last Saturday.
Sure, Cook looked pretty good in live competition, but let’s not forget how vanilla defensive game plans are during the preseason. Yes, Cook faired well against the Lions on Friday, but come Monday when Jon Gruden decided to have Paul Guenther dial up some pressure through blitzes, Cook came crashing back down to Earth. And his landing was so tough that Gruden yanked him during practice in favor of Manuel after Cook muffed a snap.
And this seems to be the theme of the Raiders backup competition for the past couple of seasons. Both Manuel and Cook have flashed moments of impressie play but neither of them have been consistent. Much like Cook went from a high during the preseason game to a low at Monday’s practice, Manuel was very good in the first preseason game in 2017, only to struggle with consistency and almost lose the backup role to Cook.
Hopefully Cook will bounce back from a bad day of practice on Monday and show that he can be consistent enough to be the backup to Carr and prove he was worth the fourth round pick that the Raiders expended on him. But as we saw last season, one good showing in the first preseason game of the year clearly isn’t enough to crown anyone the backup.
The Raiders have been looking for a quality backup for quite some time now and it appears that they still won’t have the caliber of backup they’d like in 2018. That being said, Cook has shown improvement under Jon Gruden. At this time last year we would never have expected him to play as well as he did against the Lions. Hell, I wouldn’t have expected it if asked only 30 minutes before the Lions game started.
But the reality is, Cook has improved under better coaching and there’s a chance that Gruden can salvage the third year quarterback and develop him into the quality backup Derek Carr needs.