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Can Raiders’ Connor Cook make franchise history?

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Oakland Raiders quarterback Connor Cook (8) fumbles in the second half of an NFL football game against the Denver Broncos, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017, in Denver. The Raiders recovered the ball. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

Oakland Raiders quarterback Connor Cook (8) fumbles in the second half of an NFL football game against the Denver Broncos, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017, in Denver. The Raiders recovered the ball. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

Connor Cook will boldy go where only one man before him has gone in the storied 57-year history of the Oakland Raiders.

Come Saturday in Houston at 1:30 p.m., the 23-year-old Cook will become just the second rookie quarterback in franchise history to start a playoff game. The Raiders have played 43 postseason games in their history and the only other time a rookie started came in 1991 when Todd Marinovich was under center.

Marinovich’s fateful start against the Chiefs came in under eerily similar circumstances to Cook’s expected start against the Texans. Long before Marinovich’s career and life spun out of control, he was a rookie first-round pick out of USC filled with promise. Like Cook, Marinovich threw his first NFL pass the week before the playoffs. Like Cook, Marinovich was impressive in a Raiders loss — very impressive, throwing three touchdowns in a 27-21 loss to the Chiefs in that Dec. 22 game in ’91.

Connecting the dots of the Raiders rookie quarterbacks, Cook also gave the Raiders reason for optimism in Sunday’s crushing loss in Denver by going 14 for 21 for 150 yards and a touchdown.

But this is where Raiders fans are hoping the similarities between Marinovich and Cook come to an end.

A week after getting his feet wet in ’91, a week later Marinovich was overwhelmed by the same Chiefs defense while throwing four costly interceptions in a 10-6 loss in Kansas City in the wild card round. Marinovich went 12 for 23 for 140 yards and also fumbled once. Not included in his woeful stat line was a locker room mirror that Marinovich broke with his helmet after the loss.

How will Cook respond to the pressure of being the first rookie in NFL history to make his first career start in the playoffs? And what about the task of playing on the road against the NFL’s top-ranked defense? Can Cook become the first Raiders rookie quarterback to ever win a playoff game? It’s probably safe to say the Raiders’ best chance of winning would be for their offensive line to turn in a dominating performance, and for their defense to make some plays against Houston’s Brock Osweiler.

On the other hand, a guy who knows a couple things about quarterback play seems to think an awful lot of Connor Cook!

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287

Raiders begin post-Carr phase expressing confidence in McGloin

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ALAMEDA — Life without Derek Carr officially began Tuesday, with the Raiders returning to work for the first time since losing their starting quarterback to a broken fibula.

 

The Raiders as a matter of policy don’t confirm surgical procedures, but Carr himself passed along the news on Twitter.

 

“Surgery couldn’t have gone better! Received great news! Already started the recovery process!,” Carr said. “Thank you for all of your prayers as I heal up!”

 

Meanwhile, the long faces in the locker room on Christmas Eve have given way to optimism, with players invoking the NFL custom of “next man up.” In the Raiders case, that means backup quarterback Matt McGloin.

 

“Nobody wants to lose the starting quarterback, so it was an adjustment for that moment,” center Rodney Hudson said. “We’re confident (Matt’s) going to do a good job. He prepares well, works hard, and we’ve just got to do our part to make sure we stay sharp.”

 

McGloin started six games as an undrafted rookie in 2013, winning his starting debut in a 23-20 road win against the Houston Texans and losing his next five starts.

 

His only extended playing time in the last 47 games were single appearances replacing Carr due to injury in London against the Miami Dolphins in 2014 and in the 2015 regular-season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals.

 

The good news for the Raiders is there will be need for major tweaks to the offensive system, given that McGloin operates in a similar way in terms of execution and delivery.

 

McGloin, who will speak to the media Wednesday, goes about his job Monday through Friday much like the man he is replacing.

 

“I would say the only thing is McGloin probably swears a little more than Derek,” rookie quarterback Connor Cook said. “That’s the main difference.”

 

Tight end Mychal Rivera said McGloin brings a competitive edge that was evident when both players were rookies in 2013.

 

“He’s a leader at heart and a hard worker,” Rivera said. “It’s almost like he lives for being that underdog, and that’s what fuels him. We’re going to rally behind him and we’re excited for Sunday.”

 

In McGloin’s first start, Rivera caught five passes for 54 yards, including a 26-yard touchdown.

 

Wide receiver Andre Holmes, who also played with McGloin in 2013, cited the quarterback’s late 19-yard completion to Amari Cooper which put the Indianapolis game away after Carr was injured.

 

“He put the ball out there for Amari to go up and make a play on it,” Holmes said. “Those aer some of the things he did a lot when he was starting here a few years ago. He understands the abilities that his playmakers have. He has full confidence in those players having his back.”

 

This time around, McGloin has a far superior team around him as opposed to the Dennis Allen-coached Raiders that finished 4-12 in 2013.

 

“Now he’s got a running game and he’s got weapons like Crab and Amari, and tight ends that do a good job working the middle of the field,” running back Taiwan Jones said. “He knows we’ve got his back and we’ll keep the show going.”

 

In a podcast Tuesday with Monday Morning Quarteback’s Albert Breer, former Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson seconded the notion that Carr to McGloin should be a smooth transition in terms of preparation.

 

“You can’t minimize the loss of Derek Carr and how well he’s playing, but I think the staff believes in Matt and the locker room believes in Matt,” Olson said. “A lot of the traits they have are similar. They’re accurate, they make good decisions.”

 

Olson, the offensive coordinator in 2013-14, said McGloin is a “very capable backup quarterback and one that could probably be starting for a lot of teams this season. I think they’re confidenet in that, and there won’t have to be a lot of changes.”

 

Carr, whose chances of returning to the field even if the Raiders were to make the Super Bowl are extremely remote, is expected back soon.

 

“I think he’ll be back around tomorrow,” running back Latavius Murray said. “I know he’s not going to take time off or be away from this building if he doesn’t have to — that’s the kind of guy he is.”

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33

Jack Del Rio moving on, Derek Carr eyeing Super Bowl, Menelik Watson regains starting job

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ALAMEDA — Raiders coach Jack Del Rio was in the business of moving on Monday, declining to discuss any additional details on the status of quarterback Derek Carr’s broken fibula.

“I’m not really going to shed any more light on it,” Del Rio said at his weekly news conference. “I think at some point there may be more details that follow, but I don’t have any for you today.”

Carr, according to an ESPN report, will have surgery on Tuesday in Los Angeles. But Del Rio claimed to not be aware.

“I don’t know the details,” Del Rio replied when asked specifically when Carr’s surgery would occur. Continue Reading

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42

Raiders notes: Bruce Irvin eyes 10-sack season; Mario Edwards Jr. likely to play vs. Colts; Kelechi Osemele returns to practice

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ALAMEDA — Bruce Irvin makes no secret about his desire to deliver his first 10-sack season.

“I definitely want to get that,” Irvin said. “I definitely … I’m gonna get it. I’m gonna get it.”

The Raiders outside linebacker, in his first season in Oakland after four years with the Seattle Seahawks, has made the elusive double-digit sack season a possibility with five in his past five games.

His seven sacks on the year leave him one away from his previous career high, set as a Seattle rookie in 2012. Defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr., Irvin’s linebackers coach for three years in Seattle, likes the fact that Irvin is motivated to reach that milestone. Continue Reading

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50

Raiders looking to fix recent red zone woes; Shilique Calhoun returns to practice, Stacy McGee, Karl Joseph still out

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ALAMEDA — It wasn’t long ago that the Raiders were humming along as one of the best red zone offenses in the league.

Nobody was better over the first four games and as recently as two weeks ago, the Raiders were seventh in the NFL with touchdowns on 64.3 percent of their possessions.

Two bad weeks — with two touchdowns on their last 11 trips — and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave is suddenly answering questions about what happened to his once dynamic unit.

“A number of factors,” Musgrave said Wednesday. “We’re ready to get back on track, that’s for sure.”

The Raiders had one touchdown and three field goals on seven trips inside the 20-yard line against the San Diego Chargers. (One red zone possession was following a turnover and led to the game-ending kneel down). Continue Reading

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91

When will Raiders QB Derek Carr take snap from center? Mum’s the word

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Staff photo

Derek Carr hasn’t taken a snap from iunder center in 231 snaps

ALAMEDA — When we last saw Raiders quarterback Derek Carr under center on Nov. 27, he exited with his right pinkie finger bent in different directions after an exchange with Rodney Hudson.

Since Carr’s return that day, he has taken 231 snaps from center — every one of them in either the shotgun or pistol formations, when the snap travels at least four yards through the air and with limited force on the hands of the quarterback.

Whether the Raiders return to plays run from under center against Indianapolis Saturday at the Coliseum remains to be seen, and certainly won’t be advertised by the coaching staff in advance.

In a 19-16 win over San Diego, Carr actually lined up under center late in the first quarter long enough to draw Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa offsides for a penalty. The ball was never snapped.

The rest of the game was strictly shotgun and pistol. Carr is playing with the finger taped, his brother David telling NFL Media at the time of the injury it was dislocated in two places.

While Carr directed the Raiders to a wins over Carolina and Buffalo, the offense has struggled in the last two games against division opponents Kansas City and San Diego with two touchdowns in 10 red zone possessions.

The Raiders haven’t run plays from under center in either short yardage or goal line, which usually calls for those formations, and even ran five snaps in kneel-down formations against Carolina and San Diego out of shotgun.

All of which suggests Carr’s pinkie is limiting the Raiders to some extent offensively, although neither coach Jack Del Rio nor Carr were conceding that point Monday.

“I wouldn’t draw any conclusions from that,” Del Rio said at his weekly press conference. “I think we’re doing what we think is right for us and it’s not that we can’t or we haven’t, it’s just that we’re choosing to proceed the way we are.”

Asked when he might be lining up under center on his weekly radio appearance on 95.7 The Game, Carr said, “I haven’t been limited at all. I’m taking snaps from center (in warm-ups). I did it before the game, for those that saw that. There’s no limitations so I’m just going to do what the coaches call.”

Since the injury, Carr has completed 53.3 percent of his passes (65 of 122) for 721 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions, a passer rating of 75.2. A passer rating that was 101.2 at the time of the injury has dropped to 95.2.

On Nov. 6, the Raiders had their best rushing performance of the season, with 43 attempts for 218 yards against the Denver Broncos. They ran the ball from under center on 34 of those 43 carries.

It defies logic to suggest Del Rio and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave have made a conscious decision to abandon an entire section of the playbook and that it has nothing to do with the health of their quarterback.

In the postgame locker room after the Chargers win, Del Rio said using the shotgun in the red zone: was “an issue we’re working through . . . at some point (when) we feel better about going under center, we will.”

— Del Rio, while ecstatic for a fan base which hasn’t seen the playoffs since 2002, was getting on with the business of preparing to face the Colts.

“There’s been a drought here. We got here two years ago and talked about winning the division and being in the playoffs. The being in the playoffs part is there. The winning the division (part) is yet to be determined. We need to continue to work on that.”

— When Del Rio won a challenge which re-spotted a scramble gain by Carr for a first down, it was his third win in five challenges. The Raiders got a huge ruling in their favor when Michael Crabtree’s 13-yard catch was ruled a touchdown after originally being ruled out of bounds.

“I believe in getting it right when you can,” Del Rio said. “I’d like to see it expanded to any call you think is important enough for your  team. I’ve got a bunch of good people to help with that decision making. We’ve been fortunate to be on the right side of a bunch of those.”

— Wide receiver Amari Cooper caught one pass for 28 yards and has 12 catches for 138 yards in his last four games.

“It’d be nice to get him a few more balls, but I think at the end of the day, we want to stack up wins,” Del Rio said. “I think that’s the most important thing, but I think getting your premiere players involved is usually a good thing.”

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