The atmosphere was electric Friday night in Oakland, as the Raiders preseason opener marked the return of Jon Gruden to the NFL sidelines. In that somewhat pressure filled environment, third-year quarterback Connor Cook remained calm, cool, and collected.
Early in the second quarter, as the pocket collapsed on him, Cook rolled to his left while keeping his eyes downfield and delivered a strike to Ryan Switzer in the back of the end zone for a Raiders touchdown.
The play epitomized what head coach Jon Gruden felt was a “pretty good” performance, one that re-awakens the battle for the Raiders backup quarterback between he and veteran E.J. Manuel.
“I thought he did pretty good,” the Raiders head coach said of his young QB. “He had a great day the other day against the Lions in Napa. He’s had an excellent training camp, he’s not turned the ball over, he’s showing pretty good command, there are a couple decisions I just can’t wait to talk to him about and get his perspective. But he moved the team, put points on the board, I liked the two-minute at the end of the half.”
After a slow start to his NFL career, Cook was unrecognizable Friday night flashing the skills that led Gruden to believe the former Michigan State quarterback should have been a first round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.
Instead being a day one selection, Cook slid to the fourth round of the draft where the Raiders scooped him up to be Derek Carr’s backup. The move has yet to go according to plan as Cook has struggled throughout his NFL career and has spent each of the last two seasons buried in the depth chart as the third-string quarterback.
That could change after Friday night, as Cook completed 11-of-19 passes for 141 yards with one touchdown for a passer rating of 98.8. And the way in which he achieved those numbers made his showing even more impressive than the box score would suggest.
All night, he displayed tremendous poise under pressure delivering each pass with great touch and a quick release. His decision making was also heavily improved as he consistently made correct reads to hit open receivers.
Gruden said this week he felt Cook had made ‘great strides’ in training camp and the coach is pleased with how his quarterback continued his upward trend in the spotlight against an opposing NFL team.
As Gruden said after the game that there is a “long way to go to decide who’s the number two quarterback,” but Cook clearly helped his case greatly Friday under the bright lights of Oakland Coliseum.