Raiders Get a Victory in Gruden's Debut

In the process of beating the Lions in their exhibition opener, the team also discovers backup QB Connor Cook appears much more effective

In a perfect scenario, Connor Cook will hardly take a snap for the Raiders in 2018.

The Raiders hope No. 1 quarterback Derek Carr stays healthy and regains some of the mojo he lost in a disappointing 2017 -- and keep Cook on the sideline.

But if Carr should be injured, it appears Cook may have taken several giant steps forward to give the Raiders a valuable insurance policy in 2018.

Cook, the third-year pro out of Michigan State, has looked terrific in early training camp practices for Oakland this summer and looked just as good Friday night in the Raiders’ exhibition opener, a 16-10 victory over the Detroit Lions at Coliseum. It gave new head coach Jon Gruden his first victory for the franchise since he last coached the Raiders in the 2001 season.

After Carr was pulled early after throwing just four passes, Cook took over and was very effective, completing 11-of-19 throws for 141 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. After the Raiders took a 3-0 lead on rookie Eddie Pineiro’s short field goal (one of three field goals in the game), Cook led the Raiders on a 10-play, 73-yard drive in the second quarter that ended with his 7-yard TD pass to former Cowboy wide receiver Ryan Switzer.

Cook – who is in a duel with EJ Manuel for the No. 2 job behind Carr – looked almost like a different quarterback Friday night than he has previously in a Raiders uniform. He moved well, was accurate and was in command of Gruden's new offense.

Tweeted Jerry McDonald of the Bay Area News Group: “OK, this is Connor Cook as I’ve never seen him before. At least as a Raider.” Tweeted Levi Damien of SB Nation: “Cook is dealing. Never seen him play this well.”

Longtime Raiders watcher Paul Gutierrez of also was impressed with the way Cook was carving up the Lions defense.

Tweeted Gutierrez, during the game: “Connor Cook is not being given every opportunity to win the Raiders backup quarterback job, because based on his performance Friday night, he is earning it. Cook looked as comfortable as he has ever looked since Oakland used a fourth-round draft pick on him (in 2016).”

Of course, Manuel isn’t going to just let Cook take the job. Manuel also played well, completing 4-of-6 throws for 46 yards in late action.

The Raiders’ next exhibition game will be Saturday, Aug. 18, in Los Angeles vs. the Rams.

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