Connor Cook, the surprise 4th round selection of the Oakland Raiders in the 2016 draft out of Michigan State starts on Saturday. Last weekend, Cook (who was suiting up for his first NFL game) looked like a rookie. He couldn’t do much with the offense until later in the 2nd half. His brightest moment, a strike to Amari Cooper for a 32 yard touchdown gave RaiderNation a glimpse into what can happen. Cook is now slated to get the start in his first NFL game, leading the Oakland Raiders into Houston.
To understand what to expect from Cook, let’s take a look at what he brings to the table. He’s listed as 6’4 and 217 lbs. Cook was a 4 year starter at Michigan State University, where he amassed 9,194 passing yards and 71 touchdowns. Cook’s draft analysis shows he possesses good velocity on the run and to make all of the “big boy throws” in the NFL. However, he doesn’t sell play action well and has issues with short throws. He makes the throws with defender barreling down on him. He delivers the ball well in over 10+ yards downfield. Additionally, his height you don’t see balls getting batted back at him. You also see the negatives too. He does get inaccurate on short throws and his play actions skills are sorely lacking.
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Fast forward to Saturday’s match up against the Texans. He’s also facing the number one overall defense, in terms of yards allowed (301.3). A short week will not allow him a chance to absorb much of the playbook. The running game factors heavily. I do expect to see Cook get a chance early to throw the deep ball downfield. With Cooper, Crabtree and Roberts, Oakland does have the ability to test any secondary.
Their route running , combined with Cook’s accuracy should loosen up a defense looking to put 8 in the box against the run. The fact that Cook can throw on the run and his size will allow Musgrave to move the pocket. Cook has the strengths and skill set to help this team get a win over the Texans. He just needs to execute the game plan, his offensive line and make decisions quick. For example:
The Texans will certainly work hard at disguising their defense, but they won’t plan for a downfield attack like the Raiders can employ if they give Cook a chance to throw. Cook’s performance could show McGloin the door or enhance his own trade value. After all, Dallas expected to draft him in the 4th round . The Oakland Raiders drafted him for a reason. It is time to see why. Simple execution and reads will assist Cook in his first start. Equally important is the manner in which the rookie handles the magnitude of the moment.