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Antonio Pierce addresses Raiders QB battle before rookies take field

Updated May 10, 2024 - 8:04 pm

The Raiders’ quarterback job is up for grabs for the first time in more than a decade.

But coach Antonio Pierce emphasized Friday that Aidan O’Connell’s rookie-season performance gives him an early advantage over veteran Gardner Minshew.

“Aidan’s earned the right to go out there and get the first snap,” Pierce said on the first day of rookie minicamp.

What O’Connell does with that chance will dominate the news cycle during organized team activities, minicamp, training camp and the preseason. Minshew, signed in free agency, will have a big say in the matter.

“It’s going to be a process,” Pierce said of the competition. “We’ll stick to the process.”

O’Connell went 5-5 as the starter last season, throwing for 2,218 yards, 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Minshew went 7-6 with the Colts, throwing for 3,305 yards, 15 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

Raiders eyed young QB

The Raiders wanted to take a quarterback in the NFL draft, but when six were selected by the time they picked at No. 13, they changed course.

“It’s one of those situations you just play it out,” Pierce said.

Pierce’s disappointment in not landing the Raiders’ quarterback of the future quickly turned to excitement with the selection of Georgia tight end Brock Bowers. And if early impressions from rookie camp mean anything, Bowers’ size, power and athletic ability are elite as advertised.

“You’re talking about probably the most dynamic player in college football at that tight end position in a long time,” Pierce said. “It’s rare you get a guy like that who can line up as a slot receiver, see him in the backfield, reverses, catch the ball. But I think more importantly his toughness.”

The Raiders didn’t take a quarterback with their other seven picks, meaning their search for a long-term starter will resume next offseason. O’Connell or Minshew will start this season, with undrafted rookie free agent Carter Bradley and Anthony Brown, who played two games for the Ravens in 2022 but didn’t play last season, competing for the No. 3 spot.

Pierce believes the O’Connell-Minshew battle can set a teamwide tone.

“It’s great for our building; it’s great for our quarterback room,” Pierce said. “And if you have competition in the quarterback room, what does every other room look at? They’re looking at those two guys.”

Pierce said O’Connell has taken the “bull by the horn” during the offseason. If the second-year prospect from Purdue is affected by the addition of Minshew or the chatter about the Raiders drafting a quarterback, he doesn’t show it, Pierce said.

“Aidan has a certain thing mentally where he blocks out outside noise, doesn’t worry about it,” Pierce said. “I’m sure he reads like we all do. But when he comes to work, he’s focused.

”I’ve seen him grow in this short period of time in the offseason. I’m really excited to see Aidan as we go through OTAs, minicamp and training camp.”

Pierce didn’t dismiss Minshew, saying he’s “right there as well.”

“You talk about personality. I know you guys interviewed him,” Pierce said.

Contact Vincent Bonsignore at vbonsignore@reviewjournal.com. Follow @VinnyBonsignore on X.

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