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EJ Manuel wins backup QB battle as Raiders go winless in preseason

Updated September 1, 2017 - 12:56 am

ALAMEDA, Calif. — No one should have expected anything more. Or less.

Running back George Atkinson III attempted to catch the opening kickoff. And he muffed it. The botched return forced the Raiders to start the evening at their own 11-yard line. Two plays later, running back John Crockett took a carry to the left side. And he fumbled it, setting up an easy Seattle Seahawks field goal.

So it began, a bad game to watch for fans.

The good news is who else was watching.

More than 40 Raiders players did not play a single snap Thursday in the exhibition finale, the team resting its key and injured players in advance of the Sept. 10 season opener.

There still were a couple of developments of note in the 17-13 loss to the Seahawks. Among them, two of the team’s four seventh-round picks appear to have secured a roster spot, and the No. 2 quarterback battle is finally, indisputably over.

The Raiders must reduce their roster from 90 to 53 players before Saturday’s NFL deadline at 1 p.m. Players will begin to be notified of their releases Friday.

Those expected to survive the cutdown include rookie defensive tackle Treyvon Hester and safety Shalom Luani.

The two seventh-rounders had very different evenings. Hester received the “key player” treatment, spectating after having registered three sacks in the first three exhibitions. He’ll be part of the Raiders’ Week 1 rotation on the defensive line against the Tennessee Titans. Luani, meanwhile, solidified his case with a strong final argument.

Granted, it was a poor pass. Horrible, even.

But Luani did what he has all offseason, showcasing a tendency to be in the right place at the right time. This time, his instincts positioned him for an elementary interception on an overthrown second-quarter Treyvon Boykin pass. Luani did not play on the team’s next defensive series, or again all night.

Welcome to the team.

As for the No. 2 quarterback battle, well, it’s been pretty clear for quite a while who the winner of that was. Raiders coaches clearly favored EJ Manuel over Connor Cook during training camp. But while their preference seemed obvious, they were insistent the battle wasn’t over, that Manuel and Cook were still competing, that it was premature to count out the latter.

Entering Thursday’s game, Cook was a boxer with his back on the canvas, a referee counting, “Seven, eight, nine …”

“Ten” was heard during the second quarter.

Manuel took a shotgun snap and scanned right before quickly shifting his attention left.

He then displayed a quick release, firing a back-shoulder pass in the end zone to rookie wide receiver Keon Hatcher. This punctuated a 14-play, 94-yard drive during which Manuel completed five of seven passes for 67 yards, including the 18-yard touchdown. He also scrambled for 6 yards.

Cook is fully expected to make the Raiders’ roster behind Manuel. The two rotated throughout the game, Manuel handling the first two drives, Cook the next two, Manuel the following two, and so forth. But they don’t want them to be this busy until next August.

Quarterback Derek Carr stood on the sideline Thursday, watching the backups rotate.

For the remainder of 2017, the Raiders want Manuel and Cook to be the ones watching.

More Raiders: Follow all of our Raiders coverage online at reviewjournal.com/Raiders and @NFLinVegas on Twitter. Contact reporter Michael Gehlken at mgehlken@reviewjournal.com. Follow @GehlkenNFL on Twitter.

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