Following training camp, and four games of preseason action, it became clear that the Raiders needed to address the backup quarterback position, and Saturday afternoon, General Manager Reggie McKenzie and Head Coach Jon Gruden did just that.
The team released former Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook, early Friday afternoon, and then traded for AJ McCarron, releasing EJ Manuel in a corresponding move. In the Raiders' preseason finale, Manuel had an impressive performance, completing 18 of 22 passes, and throwing for 255 yards with three touchdowns, but it turned out to be too little too late.
Cook and Manuel both struggled with turnovers and protecting the ball this preseason which forced the Raiders' front office to act. McCarron joins the Raiders after four years in Cincinnati, and a brief stint in Buffalo, but he'll be reunited with several familiar faces.
From 2010 to 2013, McCarron called Tuscaloosa, Ala., home, along with now-fellow Raider Amari Cooper. The two were fortunate enough to be crowned BCS Champions, hoisting the trophy in 2013, and will once again join forces in the Bay Area. Not only were they both members of the Alabama Crimson Tide during those memorable years, but so was Raiders defensive backs coach Derrick Ansley.
Sunday evening, the day after the trade, Gruden addressed the media, and spoke about the addition of McCarron.
"He had been in Cincinnati with Paul Guenther our Defensive Coordinator. I've been impressed with him when he was put in some tough spots, in a playoff drive, on a very good football team," Coach said. "He went in there and did some very good things, got signed by Buffalo, I think he got a big signing bonus, things didn't work out. He's young, he's got some playing experience in some big games, and we have a lot of intelligence on him. Derrick Ansley was with him in Alabama, I had him on my little episode, I got to know AJ, and Paul Guenther was with him on a daily basis. We feel like we got better at the quarterback position, and we've got to prove that."
During McCarron's four years with the Bengals, he started in three games, winning two of them and has thrown for a total of 920 yards, with a completion percentage of 64.7, and six touchdowns. While the decision to release Cook and Manuel was in the best interest of the team, the Raiders' only quarterbacks on the roster now are Derek Carr and McCarron, so if Carr were to suffer any type of injury, McCarron would be thrown into action without much familiarity of Gruden's offense.
"Hopefully, Derek [Carr] stays healthy," Gruden said. "That's number one, we have to fast-track AJ, he's in here now working with [quarterbacks coach] Brian Callahan and he'll be a consistent visitor here at this facility for the next few weeks. He's got a lot of catching up to do and we'll try to fast-track him the best way we can. There is a possibility that we bring another arm in here, so we'll see."
At 28 years old, McCarron is still a young player, and Gruden has a knack for developing quarterbacks. Prior to McCarron being drafted by the Bengals in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL Draft, he stopped by Gruden's QB Camp to talk shop with his future head coach.
As time goes on McCarron will certainly pick up Gruden's terminology and playbook, and hopefully Carr is able to stay healthy going forward.
With just two QBs currently in the room the hope is that McCarron will be ready to answer the call if he ever gets the chance, and it'll be easier to help him get on track with Carr by his side. We'll see how McCarron looks in Silver and Black later this week on the practice field.