Oakland Raiders  

 

Raiders express confidence with Connor Cook despite first start

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A rookie starting his first ever game -- in the playoffs. You'd forgive the Raiders if they had some trepidation heading into today's wild-card tilt against the Texans.

Except that's not the feeling at all. When Connor Cook takes his first snap today, there is overwhelming confidence in the fourth-rounder from Michigan State. For real.

So much so, that when the Raiders learned Matt McGloin (left trapezius, AC joint sprain) wouldn't be 100% in practice this week, they quickly turned to Cook. They didn't wait to see if McGloin would be good to go, they moved on to Cook,  their future backup QB to Derek Carr.

They wanted Cook to have the full slate of practice snaps, they wanted to build that rapport with the receivers. By Tuesday, when McGloin couldn't go fully, it was on to Cook.

Players are rallying behind him, including receivers Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper. With good reasons. From those who have watched him closely, one of the best things about Cook is that he can really fling it.

He's not afraid to let loose, as one source explained. That was evident in his appearance last week as he went 14 of 21 for 150 yards with a pick and a touchdown in a Week 17 loss. McGloin may be the safe pick, but Cook is the more fun one.

As Crabtree has told people, Cook's ability to just chuck it has drawn rave reviews. Quietly, Cook has improved this season under the tutelage of coordinator Bill Musgrave and quarterbacks coach Todd Downing, even working with the scout team -- his footwork, his weight-transfer. Now he'll get to show it.

During the predraft process, Cook was crushed. Scouts picked apart his personality, how he wasn't named a captain at Michigan State and whether he was a product of a stacked team. Interestingly, that personality has endeared him to people in Oakland. He's calm and cool, shrugging off mistakes and easing into everything. They know the spotlight won't be too bright for him.

As for what you'll see on the field, of course it will be cut down a bit. They simplified it, while also going back to the preseason to see what he did well.

As for Carr, the injured MVP candidate whose broken fibula paved the way for Cook, he's mostly remained in the shadows. Carr knows his presence draws attention and his way to show leadership has been to stay out of the way. He'll drop by the lunchroom to talk with Cook, offer some advice, then disappear again. Because of his injury, Carr can't travel to Houston. Which means the spotlight will be all on Cook today.

Follow Ian Rapoport on Twitter @RapSheet.

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