Preseason football is all about overreactions. You see someone shine in the game and suddenly fan expectations are sky high. Everyone has turned the corner and every under the radar guy is going to unseat a starter or move up the depth chart.
Connor Cook’s performance in Friday’s game against the Lions had a lot of people wondering if that was his moment. The moment when he would finally prove himself worthy of moving up from third stringer, inactive on gameday, to primary backup to Derek Carr. Cook did receiver second team reps in practice, but we might want to back up the primary backup talk for now.
Friday’s 11 for 19, 141-yard, one touchdown, no interception performance gave way to a practice that was a lot more like we have grown accustomed to seeing from Cook. He was erratic to say the least. Deep balls were too long for his receivers to catch up to, his sideline throws were too high or too far out of bounds, and even some short easy passes sailed on him.
At one point he missed high to Johnny Holton on a shallow cross. He dropped his head and put his hands on his hips. Gruden pulled him aside to talk to him, likely telling him to calm down or focus or some such thing, and then they ran the same play again. This time Cook took something off the ball to get it to Holton for the completion.
It isn’t solely a matter of Cook just forgetting how to play or something. His head coach saw some good things in the game and wanted to test him to see if he could handle more.
“We made it hard on him today, put him in some tough position,” Jon Gruden said of Cook. “You don’t get a chance to read your clippings and celebrate your press conferences for long in this business. Hopefully he got his eyes opened today and he can learn from this film, but he obviously missed a couple throws we expect him to hit.”
I asked Connor how he felt he handled the extra stuff Gruden threw at him.
“I thought I handled it ok,” said Cook. “There was obviously some blitz pickups that we could have done better, I could have done better at changing the point, making sure guys were picked up and stuff like that, and obviously some throws that I missed, but that’s why it’s practice. You work on it and you try and perfect your craft, and come out tomorrow and be better tomorrow.”
Gruden tries to make the practices hard so the games are easy. Something that wasn’t as evident with his previous coaches. Cook also noted that in preseason, defenses are kept much more simple as teams don’t want to give away anything exotic. So, the difficult stuff is going to happen more in practice.
As we know, Gruden is pretty fiery both when things go well and especially when they go wrong. His most audibly upset point at practice today happened when Cook and the offense failed to break the huddle properly.
“You just want to have a clean break,” said Connor Cook. “Every time you break the huddle, you want to have everyone clapping their hands in sync, together, and anytime you don’t have that, it’s just not good football, so we all want to be in unity, be doing stuff together, so that’s why he got on us today.”
We’ll see if Cook continues to see second team reps ahead of EJ Manuel the final three days of camp and in the team’s second preseason game in LA against the Rams.
Injuries: Not practicing were Jordan Simmons (undisclosed), Breno Giacomini (knee), Pharaoh Brown (undisclosed), Seth Roberts (soreness), Martavis Bryant (headache), Ahtyba Rubin (undisclosed), Fadol Brown (undisclosed), Obi Melifonwu (still evaluating per Gruden), Marcus Gilchrist (foot), Donald Penn (PUP with foot), and Eddie Vanderdoes (PUP with knee). Daryl Worley left practice after collision on the field.
Returned: Brandon Parker (ankle), Arden Key (ankle), and Gareon Conley (hip).
Ian Silberman and David Sharpe rotated first and second team reps at right tackle.
Daryl Worley and Gareon Conley rotated first team reps at cornerback until Worley left practice. Conley was officially limited today.
Passing fancy: At one point, Derek Carr got Karl Joseph to jump offsides on a hard count, then he threw to the area Joseph wasn’t for a completion to Amari Cooper he caught and took up the right sideline for at least a 20-yard gain. He also threw a perfect pass to Marcell Ateman along the right sideline, up high where Ateman likes it and above a turned around Dexter McDonald.
Catch of the day: Jordy Nelson got behind Rashaan Melvin deep up the right seam and Derek Carr hit him perfectly for a 70-yard touchdown.
Got it covered: Newest defensive back Raysean Pringle came over to bat down a pass from Connor Cook intended for Jordy Nelson on a deep out along the right sideline. Azeem Victor knocked down a short pass from Derek Carr for Griff Whalen. Nick Nelson had tight coverage on Dwayne Harris to force an incompletion on an out along the left sideline.
Kickin’ it: Mike Nugent hit his attempts from inside 50, but his 50-yard attempt missed wide right. Reminder that Eddy Pineiro was 3-for-3 Friday night off the dirt, including no doubters from 45 and 48.