OAKLAND – Names you know well weren’t spoken much in Friday night’s preseason opener versus Detroit.
Derek Carr, Amari Cooper, Jordy Nelson, Marshawn Lynch and most offensive starters played a single series. Bruce Irvin, Rashaan Melvin and the defensive first unit hung around for two.
This game was for the backups. It always is.
Carr’s backup is an important position. It has to be someone the Raiders never play, yet can be competent in a pinch.
That battle was an even race when training camp started. Connor Cook may have a leg up after Friday night’s 16-10 win at Oakland Coliseum.
The Michigan State alum might’ve played his best football as a Raider – in fairness, there isn’t a huge sample size – completing 11-of-19 passes for 141 yards and a touchdown on three scoring drives.
He was efficient relieving Carr after the first series, and was pulled after the opening half. Cook hit a lull on one drive, but finished strong with a run of completions to set up Eddy Piñeiro’s 48-yard field goal.
His touchdown drive was particularly impressive. Cook bought time with his feet twice in the series, hitting tight end Paul Butler for 24 yards and Ryan Switzer for the seven-yard touchdown.
“He did some good things,” Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said in a halftime interview. “There’s still a couple things decision-wise I think he’s got to correct, but he moved the football, he put points on the board, and I liked his two-minute drill at the end of the half.”
Cook’s game performance backed up a strong start to training camp – he hasn’t thrown an interception in practice — where he showed improvement in accuracy and decision-making, troublesome areas in season past..
Games, however, matter most.
Cook showed well in this environment, though he’ll have to continue playing well to secure a No. 2 job that eluded him in his first two seasons. Matt McGloin and EJ Manuel beat him out for the gig in respective seasons.
Manuel’s his competition again this year, though roles could well reverse under Gruden’s staff.
The veteran was 4-for-6 passing for 46 yards, and lost a fumbled snap.
Carr was 2-for-4 for 11 yards, and Jordy Nelson knocked down an easy interception.
Every offensive starter bounced after the first series save the offensive tackles. First-round left tackle Kolton Miller and right tackle Ian Silberman played two.
Marshawn Lynch wasn’t credited with a carry but showed great burst and breakaway speed on a 60-yard touchdown run nullified by Miller’s holding penalty that helped spring No. 24.
Count second-round defensive tackle among the impressive rookies Friday night. The Sam Houston State alum had a third-down sack and batted a pass at the line of scrimmage thanks to pressure from fellow rookie Maurice Hurst.
Running back Chris Warren also had a strong night, with 13 carries for 86 yards.
Continued health, as well all know, is the only true barometer of preseason success. While there may be issues unknown as the game ends, the Raiders didn’t have many obvious injuries. Cornerback Antonio Hamilton was attended to by trainers on the field early in the second half, but re-entered the game and got hurt again.