Quarterback Competition Heats Up As Oakland Raiders Head to Texas For Matchup With Dallas Cowboys

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Quarterbacks EJ Manuel and Connor Cook

One of the biggest fights in recent memory finally goes down Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

Yes, the highly-touted, conversation piece of a fight between Floyd Mayweather and Connor McGregor will certainly have the sports world a flutter this weekend, but it isn't the only toe-to-toe clash you should be keeping an eye on come Saturday.

The Oakland Raiders travel to Texas Friday for their preseason matchup with the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium, and while the final result when the clock hits triple zeroes is inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, there certainly won't be a lack of intrigue once quarterback Derek Carr calls it an evening.

If all goes to plan, the Silver and Black will boast one of the most dynamic offenses in the NFL in 2017, but as last year taught us, depth is critical, even at the quarterback position.

Connor Cook and EJ Manuel have battled it out for the right to be the second quarterback on the depth chart throughout Training Camp 2017, and that battle will enter its third round Saturday night as both men figure to get some work following Carr's exodus.

After a strong outing two weeks ago against the Arizona Cardinals where he completed 10 of 12 passes for 107 yards, Manuel struggled against the Rams, completing three passes for just 16 yards during his time on the field.

Conversely, Cook – who didn't light the world on fire against the Cardinals – put together a nice outing at home, finding the end zone once, and looking comfortable in the second week of the preseason.

And while there is still undoubtedly room to grow before Week 1 of the regular season, Head Coach Jack Del Rio gave the nod – at least for one night – to Cook following the loss to the Rams.

"I thought he played better than EJ [Manuel]," said Head Coach Jack Del Rio postgame. "They're obviously in a battle for the backup spot, and I think tonight Connor was better in the backup role. Either one of them weren't as sharp as they were the first time out. So, there are a lot of different factors that go into it, but I thought Connor played well tonight."

Now, halfway through the preseason slate of games, the quarterback battle will be decided in a few weeks, but while the outcome has yet to be determined, Offensive Coordinator Todd Downing has been pleased with what he's seen from both men.

"It's a great competition," Downing explained. "The cool thing is both those guys have approached it with such a great attitude. They've both taken strides and at times one guy has taken a bigger stride than the other, but the both have progressed so much in this offseason, this camp. It's going to be fun to see how it goes down the stretch here."

Second-year lineman Vadal Alexander offered up a similar view, saying that indeed both signal-callers have competed hard throughout the preseason.

"They're both doing really well," Alexander said.  "EJ's doing a great job of commanding the huddle. Connor's taken steps forward too from last year. They both feel like they're very good, very comfortable in the offense."

Yes, Derek Carr will be the Raiders starter for now and the foreseeable future, and while it might not be the most glamorous battle to watch play out, the back and forth between Cook and Manuel Saturday – and in the preseason finale against the Seattle Seahawks next Thursday – is certainly worthy of your attention.

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