Las Vegas Raiders | Franchise Sports Media
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New FSM Essential Feature: Raiders’ Aidan O’Connell Is The Future

Franchise Sports Media

Aidan O’Connell has had two of the best performances out of any of the young quarterbacks to have seen action this preseason.

Aidan O’Connell has a legitimate shot at QB2

Las Vegas Raiders | Franchise Sports Media
Photo Credit: TQ/Franchise Sports Media

In terms of rookie quarterbacks this offseason, much of the preseason hype has been mainly given to the Bryce Youngs and C.J. Strouds of the world, and rightfully so. That’s what comes with being a quarterback drafted first and second overall in the NFL Draft, respectively.

However, considering Jimmy Garoppolo‘s injury history and Brian Hoyer being Brian Hoyer, the Raiders drafted a quarterback much later than Young or Stroud who could very easily be a household name at quarterback in the near future (should Garoppolo go down) or not so near future–after Garoppolo‘s tenure with the Raiders is over.

While being a prisoner of the moment is never the goal, it is hard to deny what O’Connell has shown in practices and games so far. There’s also what O’Connell has shown and his head coach’s history as an offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots. Part of Jimmy Garoppolo’s success came from sitting behind an established quarterback for his first few seasons in the league. The Patriots spent a second-round draft pick on Garoppolo months after losing in a conference championship.

The Raiders spent a fourth-round draft pick on O’Connell even though they knew Garoppolo would be the quarterback for the next few seasons. If you pay attention close enough, you’ll see a lot of similarities between the Brady/Garoppolo situation and the Garoppolo/O’Connell situation. Letting O’Connell sit and learn for a few seasons behind Garoppolo not only extracts more value from Garoppolo but also sets O’Connell and the Raiders organization up for the future.

Aidan O’Connell continues to impress.

O’Connell was made for this moment and is taking full advantage of his opportunity.

Aidan O’Connell had a successful preseason.

Las Vegas Raiders | Franchise Sports Media
Photo Credit: Trisha LaCoste/Franchise Sports Media

No one magically winds up on an NFL roster. It takes years of hard work and overcoming adversity. To understand a player’s journey, it’s always good to look at the steps they took to get where they are. While there are many ways to explain O’Connell’s success at Purdue, the easiest way to sum it up is he went from a walk-on quarterback who was listed as the EIGTH quarterback on his college roster to an all-time leader in completion percentage in Purdue football history. He went from walk-on to having the second most 300-yard passing games and 400-yard passing games in Purdue history. The only quarterback in Purdue history to do that more than O’Connell was a future Hall of Fame quarterback by the name of Drew Brees.

“I started pretty low on the totem pole at Purdue and through just different circumstances was able to rise up the depth chart. So, I think that that’s definitely helpful. I think it’s definitely a new experience now, and there’s things you can bring over from college, but at the same time it’s a completely new experience. So as much as I can rely on what I’ve been through, but at the same time, you’ve got to look forward and continue to press forward,” said O’Connell.

O’Connell finished the first preseason game of his career with nearly a 118 passer rating and only three incompletions. Two of those incompletions were drops. He even answers questions like a veteran quarterback, giving all of the praise to his teammates after an impressive 34-7 victory over the 49ers in week one of the preseason.

“I think it’s our offensive line. I think they did a great job. All week in practice too, did a great job while I was in there and while the Qs were in there. They’re just working really hard. The coaches are hard on the offensive line, and they don’t get a lot of the glory sometimes. So, they’re the reason we can even run a run play or pass play, we can even start a play. The offensive line did a great job,” said O’Connell.

O’Connell then backed up one good game with another. The difference was he did so in significantly less playing time. The first preseason game saw him play a large portion of the game as Garoppolo sat out, and the team wanted to see what O’Connell looked like in live action. The second preseason game saw O’Connell not enter until the second half, as Garoppolo played one drive and Hoyer finished the first half. O’Connell finished the game with 163 yards passing, two touchdowns, and no interceptions.

What was most noticeable about O’Connell against the Rams wasn’t his stats or anything he did on the field. It was how everyone else reacted to him. Granted, the team experienced a lull when Hoyer was on the field, but there was a definite buzz amongst Raiders fans in the stadium when O’Connell entered the game. There was a buzz from the players on the field to the press box when O’Connell entered the game. It’s getting harder and harder to ignore his presence or play on the field. Josh McDaniels hinted then that O’Connell could see more playing time in the preseason finale.

It has only been a couple of weeks’ worth of preseason practices and games, but if he continues to play like he has, he could find himself with more than just additional playing time in meaningless preseason games. O’Connell could find himself as the backup to Garoppolo this season and his successor in the future.

Aidan O’Connell is the Raiders’ quarterback of the future.

– Zeke Trezevant – Franchise Sports Media

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