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'A lot of firsts' for Aidan O'Connell in preseason debut vs. 49ers

141 passing yards, a touchdown and a 117.8 QB rating.

Not too shabby for a rookie's first game in the NFL.

Aidan O'Connell brought the juice to his first pro game, getting the start and going 15-of-18 in the Raiders' 34-7 victory over the 49ers on Sunday.

"There were a lot of firsts today for him. First play call, first [time] feeling pressure in the pocket, first two-minute drive, first halftime, all those things. I thought he generally handled himself well for the first opportunity," Head Coach Josh McDaniels said postgame.

"He's going to learn a lot from some of the things that we might've been able to do a little bit better that would've helped us maybe sustain a few drives, but that's what he was in there. He's a sponge. He soaks it all in. He'll take every opportunity to improve."

His teammates were equally impressed, but not surprised by the fourth-round pick's debut.

"I've seen the growth. I've seen him out there get comfortable and play with confidence," cornerback Duke Shelley said. "That's the biggest thing you want to see from a rookie, play with confidence."

O'Connell said he came into the game feeling fairly confident thanks to the last few months of OTAs, minicamp and Training Camp practices. Yet, he recognizes this is just the beginning of a long road of learning ahead.

"There's stuff I need to work on and stuff I didn't pick up on that I missed," he said. "The coaches do a great job in practice to try and prepare us like it's a game. … The game reps are different and they're priceless, but kudos to the coaches for doing such a good job of trying to prepare us."

On the Silver and Black's first drive of the game, the former Purdue Boilermaker drove the team down the field on a 10-play, 68-yard drive that culminated in a Zamir White touchdown run to open scoring.

O'Connell connected with six different receivers throughout the game, and capped it off with his first NFL touchdown pass: a 9-yarder to Keelan Cole Sr.

What wasn't a first for O'Connell was being under the bright lights of Allegiant Stadium. He took the field here in Las Vegas this past February during the annual East-West Shrine Bowl, where, as the starter for the East team, he went 6-of-16 for 61 yards – throwing for the most yards among the East quarterbacks on the team.

Fast-forward six months later and O'Connell is coming out of the tunnel at Allegiant sporting an NFL jersey, which the 24-year-old said helped calm some of the nerves he was feeling.

"We went out there in warmups – running out in an NFL jersey is really when a lot of the jitters went away," he said. "To be out there and hear the crowd yell and everything like that. You get into the flow of the game with the completions and getting hit a couple times – those help – but I was pretty confident today and just trying to do my job."

The Silver and Black have two more preseason games to go, where O'Connell will likely get more time to become comfortable with the change from college to the pros.

"You just hope to go out there and do your best and see what happens," the quarterback said. "Not worried about the stats. There's more things than just the stats, especially responsibility in the run game that I need to improve on. I know I have a lot of work to go still."

View photos from the Raiders' preseason matchup against the San Francisco 49ers at Allegiant Stadium.

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