Connor Cook will make the first start of his NFL career when the Texans host the Raiders in Saturday’s AFC Wild Card game at NRG Stadium, and while the Texans might not be that familiar with Cook, they beleive they know how the Raiders offense will attack them.
“What (Raiders) like to do is run the ball,” Texans linebacker Whitney Merciulus said Thursday. “They’ve got some great backs that can make some plays happen, and that’s exactly what they’re probably going to do coming in here and playing in this playoff game.”
While being without its top two quarterbacks, Oakland will bring the NFL’s sixth best rushing attack to Saturday’s game, averaging over 120 yards per game on the ground in the regular season.
“They’ve got good runners, they’ve got a big offensive line,” Texans defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel said.
The Raiders didn’t have a 1,000 yard rusher this season, but they spread the ball around between three backs, led by Latavius Murray who led them with 788 yards, averaging four yards a run. Behind him, Jalen Ricahrd ran the ball for close to 6-yards in his 3 carries, while DeAndre Washington gained 467 yards on 87 rushes.
“If they can run the ball, that will take some of the pressure off the quarterback,” Crennel said.
Cook was selected by the Raiders in the fourth round of this year’s draft after finishing 34-5 as a three year starter at Michigan State where he won two Big 10 titles.
“They guy can throw it,” Texans head coach Bill O’Brien said. “I scouted this guy coming out of college. They guy can throw the ball. I’m sure they have a ton of confidence in him to do that.”
The rookie made his NFL debut Sunday in Denver after Matt McGloin hurt his shoulder. He completed 14-of-21 passes for 150 yards with a touchdown and an interception, but despite limited game action, Crennel is confident the Texans will be ready for him.
“You can go back and look at preseason, you can go back and look at him in college, and you can still tell a little bit about him that he’s got some running ability, he throws a pretty good ball.”
Crennel’s defense successfully shut down the Raider’s run game when they met in Mexico City November 21 holding them to a mere 30 yards on 20 carries. If they can be that affective again, it will make Cook’s job tougher, but won’t guarantee a Texans win.
“He’s a professional football player,” Crennel said. “He gets paid, and he’s got talent, and he’s got ability, and we’ve got to beat him. That what I’ve told (the team). You look at the young quarterback down in Dallas, he’s done pretty good, so you don’t know until you get down on the field.