Coach Jack Del Rio was not ready Monday to declare who will be under center for the Raiders when they make their first playoff appearance in 14 years this weekend.
With Derek Carr sidelined by a broken leg, Matt McGloin started Sunday’s season finale but left the game in the second quarter with a sore left shoulder. Rookie Connor Cook replaced McGloin and completed 14 of 21 passes in a 24-6 loss to the Denver Broncos that cost the Raiders the AFC West title and a first-round playoff bye.
The Raiders will travel to Houston for a first-round game Saturday, and Del Rio left open the possibility of either McGloin returning or Cook making his first NFL start against the Texans at NRG Stadium.
“We’ll see how the week goes,” Del Rio said. “Between Connor and Matt, we’ll see who we can get the most reps, who we feel the most comfortable with going into the game.”
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McGloin was injured on a roughing-the-passer penalty by Denver’s Jared Crick and left having completed 6 of 11 passes for 21 yards. Del Rio said McGloin was still “sore” on Monday but an MRI on his shoulder had not shown cause for more concern.
Del Rio, though, was noncommittal when asked whether McGloin will start Saturday if healthy. Making his first start since 2013, McGloin “pressed a little bit,” Del Rio said, and made one glaring mistake by overthrowing wide receiver Amari Cooper on what would have been a long touchdown pass.
“It could’ve been a lot better,” Del Rio said of McGloin’s play. “That (to Cooper) was a big one to miss on. I thought he had a couple decent throws earlier in the game.”
Cook, who had never been active for an NFL game before Sunday, threw for 150 yards and hit Cooper for a 32-yard touchdown. But Cook committed two turnovers, losing a fumble on a sack early in the third quarter and throwing a late interception.
“Ball security’s so huge, and we had a couple ball-security issues,” Del Rio said. “That defense is pretty good. And I thought overall he did a pretty solid job. That’s a tough set of circumstances for him. I thought he handled himself well given the circumstances.”
Houston’s defense is no slouch, either, having allowed the fewest yards per game (301.3) in the league during the regular season. Asked if it might help Cook, a fourth-round pick out of Michigan State, to know early in the week whether he’ll be starting Saturday, Del Rio joked that he “might want to wait until halftime and just throw him in there.”
“No, I mean there’s two ways of looking at it,” Del Rio said. “Obviously, the weight of, ‘Oh my gosh, this is your first start and it’s going to be a playoff game,’ that’s a big one to bite off.
“Whether that’s the case or he comes in in a backup role, we’ll see. But we’re going to work through the week the best we can, see what we have health-wise with our team and then make that determination.”
Regardless of who quarterbacks Saturday, Del Rio said the Raiders must perform much better in other phases of the game than they did against Denver. Their defense allowed plays of 64 and 43 yards – the latter a touchdown on a screen pass on third and 18 – while their running game, which pounded the Broncos in Week 9, totaled just 57 yards.
Latavius Murray finished with five carries for 11 yards, which Del Rio cited as evidence that the Raiders “didn’t run it enough.”
“We go out and let Denver score on the opening drive – that’s the worst thing you can do for an offense that’s playing with a new quarterback. Now they’re playing with more pressure than they need to feel,” Del Rio said.
“The reality is we’ve won all year as a team, we lose as a team. It wasn’t a good day for us. And the sooner we can kind of put that behind us and start focusing on the Houston Texans, the better and more healthy we’ll be going into the game.”
Del Rio said he expects the Raiders to sign another quarterback this week either to the practice squad or active roster. Agent Leigh Steinberg tweeted Monday that the Raiders had signed one of his clients, quarterback Garrett Gilbert, to their practice squad.