Napa, Calif. — If this week’s joint practices are any indication, the Oakland Raiders’ patience with quarterback Connor Cook is starting to pay dividends.
Most NFL teams don’t carry three quarterbacks, but the Raiders have gone that route the past two years, rostering Cook as the team’s third-string option. This offseason, the former Michigan State standout is making a strong push to be the team’s top backup behind starter Derek Carr.
“He’s made great strides,” coach Jon Gruden said after Wednesday’s practice with the Detroit Lions. “Since he’s stepped foot here in Napa, he hasn’t turned the ball over, made good decisions. He audibled two or three times today to big plays. He slung the ball short, medium, and deep accurately, and he’s showing really good command.
Cook’s big arm, which helped make him the winningest quarterback in Michigan State history, was on full display Wednesday. He lofted a well-placed deep touchdown down the left sideline to Martavis Bryant and made a quintessential tight-window throw to Griff Whalen down the seam, despite Lions linebacker Trevor Bates’ smoothing coverage.
Cook declined interview requests from visiting reporters, but Carr spoke highly of his young backup’s development.
The Lions have completed two joint practices with the Raiders. Some players shined, others not so much. We discuss that and who we'll be watching in the preseason opener. The Detroit News
““He’s definitely more vocal now, especially with the groups that he’s going with,” Carr said. “Obviously when I go with the ones, we have our way and the intensity and those things, you see when E.J. (Manuel) and Connor go, the intensity level doesn’t change. It has to stay the same for the whole team and that’s been awesome.
“He’s learning a great deal. I think he’s becoming a really good player and I think that the future is really bright for Connor. I really do.”
Cook, 25, hasn’t played meaningful snaps since making his first start in the Raiders’ wild card playoff game during his rookie season. He completed 18 of 45 throws for 161 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions in a losing effort against Houston.
Last preseason, Cook struggled with efficiency — a concern when he was coming out in the draft — completing 50.7 percent of his throws. In his third season, he’s looking to turn a corner and his performance in Napa suggests he’s on track.
Gruden said Cook will see plenty of playing time in the preseason opener with the Lions Friday night. He was listed ahead of Manuel on the team's first unofficial depth chart released last week.