The Raiders did not list a starting quarterback on their media schedule this week, and as it rained at team headquarters Tuesday, they moved their walkthrough to an undisclosed off-site location, away from curious eyes.
Yet the mystery of who will quarterback the Raiders in their first postseason game in 14 years Saturday hardly seemed a mystery inside the locker room, where players spoke of Connor Cook as though they expect the rookie to make his first NFL start against the host Houston Texans in the AFC wild-card round.
Cook would become the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era whose first start came in a playoff game. He made his pro debut Sunday against the Denver Broncos after Matt McGloin, who started in place of the injured Derek Carr, left in the second quarter because of a shoulder injury.
“I’ve been seeing him since training camp,” running back Jalen Richard said of Cook. “Every day after practice, Connor was out there working on his throwing, trying to get better. It really shows that he was always prepared for this moment, and his moment finally came. So I look forward to seeing him out there Saturday.”
He’s tall, he can see the field and he’s just confident out there.
Amari Cooper, Raiders wide receiver, on quarterback Connor Cook
Cook completed 14 of 21 passes for 150 yards and a touchdown in the Raiders’ loss to the Broncos after replacing McGloin, who went 6 for 11 for 21 yards in his first start since 2013. Cook also threw an interception and lost a fumble when he was sacked on the Raiders’ first drive of the second half.
Despite his inexperience, Cook’s teammates praised how he handled being pressed into action.
“I think he did a pretty good job,” wide receiver Amari Cooper said. “Especially to come in not having played all year, he did a really nice job going through his reads, stepping up in the pocket and making some good throws.”
On his 32-yard touchdown pass to Cooper, Cook stayed in a collapsing pocket and dropped a throw toward the back shoulder of the receiver, who made a twisting catch and stumbled into the end zone.
“He’s tall (6-foot-4), he can see the field and he’s just confident out there,” Cooper said.
Said running back Latavius Murray, “Even the first drive (Cook) went in, I just think he played with tremendous confidence. That’s good to see.”
The Raiders traded up on the third day of the draft to select Cook in the fourth round out of Michigan State, where he started for three seasons. Sunday was the first time Cook was active for an NFL game.
“He’s real passionate and he has this calm sense about him,” Richard said. “I don’t know if you all saw it, but he got out there in the game in Denver, he’d be out there getting ready to call the play and he’s just got his hands in his hand warmer, just calling the play with kind of that swagger. I feel very confident in Connor.”
Though critical of the two turnovers, coach Jack Del Rio said Monday he thought Cook “handled himself well given the circumstances” against the Broncos. Del Rio was not pleased with the team’s effort overall, adding the tackling was some of the worst he has seen all season.
“We focus on second and 11, not giving up a 64-yard run; third and 18, not giving up a 43-yard touchdown on a screen pass. Those are the ways we can help the quarterbacks,” Del Rio said.
“The quarterbacks are going to give us what they have and do the best they can, and we have to play well around them. We can’t expect them to come in and put us on their shoulders.”
Linebacker Bruce Irvin agreed with Del Rio.
“You can’t have 20 missed tackles,” Irvin said. “You can’t have missed assignments. You can’t have mental errors. That’s how you’re sitting at home next week.”
He’s real passionate and he has this calm sense about him. I don’t know if you all saw it, but he got out there in the game in Denver, he’d be out there getting ready to call the play and he’s just got his hands in his hand warmer, just calling the play with kind of that swagger. I feel very confident in Connor.
Jalen Richard, Raiders running back, on quarterback Connor Cook
The Texans clarified their quarterback conundrum Tuesday, announcing that Brock Osweiler will start over Tom Savage, who replaced Osweiler late in the season but suffered a concussion last week.
Irvin’s reaction: “It don’t matter, man. At the end of the day, when that ball kicks off, it’s football. Whether it’s Tom Savage or Brock Osweiler, we’re going to try to confuse him and get to him as much as we can.”
Et cetera – The Raiders announced the signing of free-agent quarterback Garrett Gilbert to their practice squad.
▪ Rookie safety Karl Joseph told the East Bay Times he intends to play Saturday after missing the past four games because of turf toe. His replacement, Nate Allen, suffered a concussion Sunday and his status for the wild-card game is undetermined.
Matt Kawahara: 916-321-1015, @matthewkawahara