Here we go. The Raiders signed EJ Manuel this offseason to infuse some veteran talent at the backup quarterback spot. The former first round pick came in and won the primary backup job from incumbent Connor Cook and four weeks into the season, Derek Carr is down with a fracture in his back, and Manuel is now called upon to lead the Raiders offense.
Manuel wasn’t just a forgotten man in Buffalo, he was a forgotten man across the NFL. He flew well under the radar when he signed on to a one-year deal in Oakland. And since that day, he’s earned his spot on this team, becoming the type of player the coaches feel a lot more confident with than they were when Carr was lost late last season.
At that time it was Matt McGloin and rookie Connor Cook who had never even been on the active list on game day. McGloin was over his head and less than halfway through his start in the season finale, he was lost to a shoulder injury. The whole ordeal caused the Raiders elite offense to crumble and the teams hopes fell right along with it.
That crumbling in Denver didn’t happen when Manuel came in the game Sunday. He stepped in and showed some poise, leading the Raiders on a drive for a field goal, and nearly on a game winning drive in the final seconds.
Even with the Raiders offense struggling most of the day, picking up just one third down, the Raiders had a chance to win it at the end.
It was the defense that got them there, down just 6 in Broncos territory at the 2-minute warning. And Manuel made the game-winning throw for Jared Cook over the middle, but Cook took his eyes off of it with an oncoming defender and let it go right through his hands.
A few plays later, Manuel went for it all again, throwing for Amari Cooper up the right sideline, but the pass was a bit late and floated behind Cooper, allowing the safety to get over and win the jump ball for the interception to end it.
Overall, Manuel went 11 for 17 for 106 yards and the one interception. That’s a decent 65% completions, though Pro Football Focus gave him this week’s fourth best adjusted completion percentage (82.4%) which accounts for dropped passes and throw aways.
“I thought he was very poised throughout the time that he played,” Del Rio said of Manuel. “He handled his business. He went through the reads. I think with the exception of the clock expiring in that environment, that’s the one thing he didn’t get near the repetitions that we got with our starter, obviously. That’s the one thing that I came out of there saying as a coach, ‘OK, I have to have him better prepared for that.’”
Though his criticisms have included his pocket presence and in just 18 dropbacks, he was sacked once. And the he took too long to get the play made and get up the line once, forcing Del Rio to call the team’s final timeout. That’s what Del Rio was talking about with regard to the clock expiring.
Other than his play in the game Sunday, we have training camp and the preseason to go on. He showed very well in camp and said at that time the he got his confidence back. It helps to be working with a familiar face in Todd Downing, who was his QB coach in Buffalo.
As for the preseason, he played over four games what amounts to one full game. In that time he completed 24 of 39 passes (61.5%) for 226 yards with 1 touchdown and no interceptions for a passer rating of 86.0.
Those numbers — admittedly against second teamers — are just above his career numbers of 58.5% completions and a passer rating of 76.9.
None of those are great numbers, but if the Raiders defense can play as well as they did in the second half in Denver, it could be enough. He probably won’t be putting up Derek Carr numbers anytime soon, but all they need is for him to give them a fighting chance and hold down the fort until Carr returns in two to six weeks.