Aidan O'Connell is early leader in Raiders' QB competition

League: NFL

Posted on: 10 May, 2024 at 08:25 PM

Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Aidan O'Connell started 10 games as a rookie for the Las Vegas Raiders and has shown further progression in the offseason.

So despite the addition of veteran Gardner Minshew, O'Connell is the early leader in the club's quarterback battle.

"Aidan's earned the right to go out there and earn the first snap," Raiders coach Antonio Pierce said Friday. "What he's done this offseason -- changing his body, his work ethic, being here every day, blocking out the outside noise. He's not worried about anything. I'm excited.

"Then you bring Gardner in here ... talk about personality. ... It's great. It's great for our building. It's great for our quarterback room. And if you got competition in the quarterback room, what does every other room look at?"

O'Connell, 25, completed 62.1 percent of his passes for 2,218 yards, 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions in 11 games last season after being a fourth-round pick out of Purdue. He was 5-5 in his 10 starts.

He was especially good late in the season, firing eight touchdown passes against no interceptions over the final four games.

Minshew, who turns 28 next Thursday, was signed in the offseason as a free agent after spending last season with the Indianapolis Colts. He passed for 3,305 yards, 15 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 17 games (13 starts) and was a Pro Bowler for the first time.

But with the Colts committed to Anthony Richardson as their long-term option at quarterback, Minshew departed and chose the Raiders as his best option to get on the field in 2024.

Las Vegas general manager Tom Telesco says his team has two good options at quarterback competing for the job.

"That's the plan is to have both those guys really compete through the offseason program, but more so in training camp, and we'll see how it plays out," Telesco said.

"I thought Aidan did an excellent job last year in a really difficult situation where the head coach changed, the (offensive) coordinator changed and he played really good football down the stretch. I've had a chance to be around him a little bit more in the building and you kind of see the quarterback intangibles that are there, which is nice to have, that you have to have as a franchise quarterback.

"And then with Gardner, you know, Gardner played well last year with the Colts. I mean, he was in the Pro Bowl, so obviously had a pretty good year. He's always performed at a high level when he's given that opportunity, so to have both those guys here competing for the job, we'll see how it goes."

Pierce is in his first full season as Raiders coach after replacing the fired Josh McDaniels at midseason and guiding Las Vegas to a 5-4 record over the final nine games. And he likes what he sees, while understanding that the season is still four months away.

"What I see is guys getting out there early," Pierce said. "Aidan is already kind of taking the bull by the horn and he's leading the way, and Minshew's right there doing it as well.

"Two guys that played against each other last year, they went neck to neck. But I'm really excited to see what happens. I think it's going to be a process. We're going to stick to the process."

--Field Level Media