Nonsense. That pretty much sums up how I feel about of E.J. Manuel’s desire to become Derek Carr’s backup for the Oakland Raiders.
Signed to a one-year, $800,000 pact and banished from Buffalo after, not surprisingly, busting hard after being the No. 16 overall pick in the 2013 draft, evidence supported my initial inkling.
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Yet, it is Manuel, a 27-year-old reclamation project that holds the advantage to back up D.C. While both head coach Jack Del Rio and offensive coordinator Todd Downing say the No. 2 quarterback job is an even race, Manuel has taken more second-team snaps than 2016 fourth-round pick Connor Cook.
And day-by-day, as camp progresses, Manuel inches forward.
The former Florida State signal caller takes advantage of any and all reps he’s gotten. He pulled the trigger in camp more often than his younger competition. And camp is the opportune time to cut it loose. Cook, on the other hand, has played it safe going to his checkdown option during the window afforded to the media.
Manuel also built quite a rapport with fellow free-agent signee, wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. (To be honest, that relationship is reminiscent of the ones built by then-Raider backup Matt McGloin with wideouts Brice Butler and Andre Holmes). Del Rio would downplay this at a presser, stating he wants the entire team to have that kind of bond.
And, whereas Cook shows inconsistency, Manuel displays much better accuracy.
But, let us not get ahead of ourselves. Camp is one thing. Game action is another and the true litmus test for Manuel and Cook. Preseason action will give us a window on who eventually becomes Carr’s backup.
The pass rush will be active, the coverages will be mixed. The last time Manuel saw meaningful snaps, it was in Buffalo’s Week 17 loss to the Jets last season. He went nine-of-20 for 86 yards, zero touchdowns or interceptions. His most egregious error was embarrassingly under-throwing wide open tight end Charles Clay for an easy would-be 20-plus yard TD late in the second quarter.
Cook, meanwhile, went 18-of-45 for 161 yards, one TD, 3 INTs in the Raiders’ Wild Card playoff loss to the Houston Texans.
Yikes and yikes.
While the competition for the No. 2 gig is one to keep an eye on, the sick, sad truth is this: If Carr goes down again, it’s repeat catastrophe. No proven quality backup on the roster — yet.