Raiders offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave isn’t attempting to fit a round peg into a square hole.
With both Derek Carr and Matt McGloin unable to start at quarterback in Oakland’s first playoff game since the 2002 season, Musgrave says he is tailoring the gameplan to rookie Connor Cook‘s skill set:
“We definitely have things that we want to fit his traits. We always think players first, then plays. While we have concepts that we’re skilled at running, all 11 guys on the field, we want to do the plays that fit Connor as well.”
No doubt Cook has NFL caliber traits, but this process isn’t typical. It’s more like nuclear fission than the simple chemistry conducted days after Christmas with at home science kits. Luckily for the Raiders, Musgrave has been in here before.
Musgrave spent five years of his life as a NFL backup quarterback and received a single start during his final year with the Denver Broncos. It didn’t go exceptionally well, with Musgrave throwing for only 101 yards on 21 passing attempts.
Suffice it to say, he’d be hoping that Cook turns in a better day, even if the coaches are put into a tough spot. Musgrave said:
“There’s definitely an adjustment phase for all staff, but fortunately Connor has been here all year. He’s been part of the process. Been pretty much just like we would with any other QB, whether it be Derek or Matt last week. We’ve had a good week. It’s been condensed.”
As has been the case since 2015, head coach Jack Del Rio spoke without revealing much, though he did mention the possibility of a trick play or two, before rounding back to his status quo:
“There might be a few new plays, you never know. You never know. We’ll do the things he’s comfortable with. Look, it’s about our team going against their team. At the end of the day, you can talk about one position over another and totally understand that quarterbacks get a lot of attention, deservedly so.”
Oakland’s coaches and players have rallied around their traditional NFL mantras, next man up, stick to the process, prepare the best you can. And Cook says that having a few days of practice while knowing he’s the starter, should help to improve his performance this Saturday:
“Should be good, just getting as many reps as possible, reps on the side. … If it’s not during team period if we’re in the special team’s period, getting more and more reps, just practicing stuff, repetition after repetition. So, looking forward to that.”
And while nerves have been known to kick in once a team takes the field for a playoff game, Cook believes that he’s not going to be any more nervous that he was when he took his first professional snap last week in Denver:
“I was nervous last week just being activated. Being inactive all season long and finally knowing that I was one play away, I was preparing like I was the guy. So, I was nervous going into the Denver game just like I’ll have the nerves going into this game. So, it’s all the same.”
Safety Nate Allen (concussion) and tackle Donald Penn (knee) missed practice Thursday, while a slew of others were limited. Shoulder injuries kept receivers Amari Cooper and Andre Holmes from participating in full, as did ankle injuries sustained by receiver Michael Crabtree and guard Kelechi Osemele.
Safety Karl Joseph, linebacker Malcolm Smith and quarterback Matt McGloin also practiced in a limited capacity. The Raiders haven’t yet formally designated who will be questionable, doubtful, or not play on Saturday.
Jason Leskiw is SFBay’s Oakland Raiders beat writer and member of the Professional Football Writers of America. Follow @SFBay and @LeskiwSFBay on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of Raiders football.