It wasn’t long ago when Derek Carr made his NFL preseason debut. The experience was fresh in his mind, easily accessed on Friday night, as he helped Connor Cook go through that important milestone.
Carr tried to offer advice without smothering, mostly remind him to stay calm and keep it simple.
“I was talking to him the whole time and telling him everything I thought I would want someone to tell me before my first game,” Carr said after Friday’s 31-10 preseason win over the Arizona Cardinals. “Leading up to the game and right before, I gave him a little, ‘Hey man, take a deep breath, see the safeties, see the flats and go through the game slowly.’ That’s when it slows down for you.”
Cook was admittedly nervous heading into his first series, which came in the third quarter of Friday’s game. He completed his first two passes on his opening drive, which ended with a George Atkinson III touchdown run. Anxiety calmed at that point, and Cook was able to play good football.
He completed 7-of-11 passes for 71 yards and an 82 passer rating, a performance that drew positive reviews from the coaching staff. Cook thanked offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave for easily executed plays, which could result in completions and quick gains.
That’s sound strategy for a young player learning a new offense. Rocky moments come for any rookie going through the process, especially learning a relatively complex system the Raiders run. Cook has improved throughout training camp and showed some skill against the Cardinals. That’s a key step for someone currently the No. 3 quarterback who will likely be Carr’s backup next season.
He’ll have time to develop over this season but won’t have many reps down the line. Cook will probably run the scout team during the regular season, and should see fewer snaps in the next two games. His largest stretch of snaps should come in the first and fourth preseason game, and Cook must take advantage of the opportunities provided.
Cook feels he has made strides, and wants to continue the trend as time rolls along.
“Going back to OTAs and minicamp, I was still learning. Everything was new,” Cook said. “Then we had a month off, and I really studied my playbook a lot. Everything slowed down a little bit after that. I started slow, but I was getting better and more comfortable with the offense.
“It’s totally different being a quarterback. Obviously, you have to know the verbiage. You have to know the checks. You have to know what the O-line is doing. You have to know how routes convert against certain coverages. There are so many things that go into it, and there’s always a learning curve. It’s a gradual improvement for me, and I just hope it continues to go like that.”