NAPA — The Raiders haven’t played a preseason game yet, but their quarterback hierarchy already seems to have clarity behind starter Derek Carr.
For Connor Cook, their fourth-round pick out of Michigan State, that means he’s looking up at the generously listed 6-foot-1 Matt McGloin.
The Raiders traded up in the draft to take Cook with the second pick of the fourth round, a move that seemed to threaten McGloin’s status. The Raiders even had Cook, with his prototypical 6-foot-4 frame, open their June minicamp getting some second-team repetitions. He’s making some slow progress, but has shown he has a lot of work ahead of him.
“Rookie quarterbacks in training camp, … they always hit a stretch of the offseason or training camp where they kind of get their sea legs underneath them,” Raiders quarterbacks coach Todd Downing said. “Connor’s had some of those moments. But what’s very impressive about him is that he bounces back from struggles.
“He moves forward and presents himself well as a seasoned player coming from a big program like MSU, where he’s able to kind of re-gather himself and have a good finish.”
Cook’s early work in Napa has featured some bounced throws, some wobblers and the most common rookie mistake — throwing the ball too late into a window.
Downing harkens back to a line he once heard about rookie quarterbacks dropping back and seeing 13 defenders instead of the usual 11.
“Sometimes I think that’s a very accurate assessment,” Downing said. “With every rep he gets, it’s going to slow down for him. It’s going to be cleaner for him. We’ll start to get him some indicators for NFL defenses and he’ll grow and grow.”
Cook knows everything won’t be perfect, so his focus is on quickly moving past any mistakes.
“You’ve got to remain calm because you put one bad play behind you and then all of a sudden the next play you throw a touchdown pass,” Cook said. “That’s just the nature of the game, that’s the nature of being a quarterback. You’ve got to be able to put things behind you and really just focus on the next play.”
Some bad throws aside, Downing likes the work he’s seeing from Cook.
“It’s funny, because you look as a practice as a whole sometimes and you remember one or two throws,” Downing said. “He’s done a lot of really good things and he’s executing the offense intelligently. We can work with some perimeter throws and accuracy stuff. He’s commanding the line of scrimmage and that’s a positive sign.”
Cook likes the progress he’s making, but knows he needs to just keep racking up the repetitions that will be available in their largest quantity during camp and the preseason.
“The more you’re doing something, the more comfortable you’re going to be,” Cook said. “From having limited reps in minicamp and OTAs and getting more reps now, being around it more — we’re busy pretty much all day watching film, talking football — I’m a lot more comfortable than I was. It’s just going to take time.”
That time it takes give McGloin more of an opportunity to continue as the Raiders’ No. 2 quarterback. A fan favorite, McGloin made six starts as an undrafted rookie back in 2013 when he beat out fourth-round pick Tyler Wilson for a roster spot and played reasonably well.
McGloin was the No. 3 quarterback most of the 2014 season behind Carr and Matt Schaub, then beat out former first-round pick Christian Ponder last year to be the backup.
“He’s kind of that guy that went undrafted, kind of unnoticed, kind of floated around at the early part of the season,” Downing said, “and all of a sudden you can’t get rid of him because he just makes good decisions and throws with anticipation and timing, understands scheme and prepares. Takes a lot of pride in his craft and that’s something that I admire a lot for a backup quarterback.”
McGloin also has a certain competitiveness that drives him to stay around.
“It goes with anything. When you feel like anyone’s discarding you or saying you’re not worthy of it or they need to see if there’s a better option, men step up,” Downing said, “and those who don’t aren’t here anymore.”