We’re only a few weeks away from the official start of Training Camp 2018, which means that we can now officially kick off our Position Battle series.
First up, the Oakland Raiders quarterbacks, so let’s take a look at the trio of guys currently on the roster and break down the biggest questions for the group headed into 2018.
Excluding one game where EJ Manuel handled the quarterbacking duties, Derek Carr was once again the main man under center for the Silver and Black in 2017.
In total, Carr completed 62.7% of his passes, throwing for 3,496 yards, 22 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions, en route to his third Pro Bowl nod.
Both Cook and Manuel were on the active roster last year; Manuel made the one aforementioned appearance, while Cook didn’t play in a regular season game, after starting the Raiders Wild Card Weekend bout with the Houston Texans to wrap up the 2016 campaign.
Battle to Watch:
Eddie Paskal: I’m not breaking any news here when I say that Derek Carr is locked in as the Raiders starting quarterback for 2018, and hopefully the next decade or so as well.
That being said, where the real intrigue lies in the quarterbacks room this year is in the battle to backup No. 4 aka Cook vs. Manuel II.
The two signal-callers went toe to toe last year in training camp with Manuel eventually coming out the victor, but it looks like the duo will run it back and compete against each other again in 2018.
Connor Cook or EJ Manuel? EJ Manuel or Connor Cook? Who’s going to be QB2 when that first depth chart comes out? That’s what I’m looking forward to seeing.
Kyle Martin: Eddie said it best, there’s really no debate here regarding who’s going to be starting under center come Week 1; however, I get enjoyment out of watching the competition behind the starters.
I know people view the preseason as a tease to the regular season, but I think it offers a lot of value for situations like the one Manuel and Cook find themselves in.
Back when Head Coach Jon Gruden hosted his QB Camp for college prospects entering the draft, Gruden took a shine to Cook, and if anyone can help the former Michigan State Spartan continue to grow it’s him.
It’s anyone’s guess who gets the backup role, but it’s worth keeping an eye on.
Storyline to Follow:
EP: Outside of the Cook vs. Manuel throw down, I’m fired up to see how Derek Carr looks in Head Coach Jon Gruden’s system.
After four seasons, and three head coaches, Carr will finally have a little bit of consistency, and if he’s become a Pro Bowler in spite of having a new offense to learn seemingly each year, I’m excited to see what he does in Year 1 with Gruden.
D.C. certainly looked like he had a good understanding of what Gruden wanted him to do during the Offseason Workout Program, but things will ratchet up when the team touches down in Napa.
Carr’s 22 touchdowns last year were the fewest he’s thrown since his rookie year, and while games aren’t won in early-August, keep an eye on No. 4 and how he looks as we inch closer to Week 1.
KM: Part of what made Carr such a highly touted prospect coming out of college was his ability to throw the deep ball, and I think Gruden is going to capitalize on that. The Raiders have plenty of playmakers that can stretch the field, and airing it will be an area of emphasis. Gruden has already said he wants to make wide receiver Amari Cooper the focal point of the passing game, and it helps the chemistry between Coop and Carr has developed over the years.
In the first few months together, Gruden and Carr seem to be two peas in a pod. Just watching the two interact during practice, Gruden is wide-eyed watching his young star throw, eager to unlock Carr’s potential. Watching Carr take the next step in his progression will be the main storyline throughout Training Camp and beyond.
Keep an Eye on…
EP: Head Coach Jon Gruden.
Since he stormed onto the NFL scene, Gruden has been regarded as quarterback whisperer of sorts, so with a coach of his caliber holding court with the Silver and Black’s QBs, seeing how the trio responds is something to keep a close eye on a training camp.
KM: Derek Carr.
Two seasons ago Carr was pegged as an MVP-candidate after leading the Silver and Black to the postseason for the first time in 14 years. I think Carr can get back to that level of play in Gruden’s scheme, and I expect him to thrive in it.