Obviously, it’s a bit too soon to anoint rookie Colt McCoy as the long-awaited quarterback messiah for the Cleveland Browns, but man did he turn in a promising debut on the road against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Browns still lost, 28-10, in large part due to the combination of some shoddy coverage in the secondary and three passing touchdowns by the born again Ben Roethlisberger, but the real story of the day for Browns fans was the play of McCoy, who flashed a lot of potential despite being in a very unfavorable situation to start his career.
Up against the aggressive, fourth ranked Steelers’ defense and shorthanded after both Mohamed Massaquoi and Josh Cribbs were knocked out of the game in the first half after two violent, possibly fine-worthy hits by Steelers linebacker James Harrison, McCoy put together a very promising performance and showed why he might POSSIBLY be the franchise quarterback the Browns have been lacking since the days of Bernie Kosar.
He can take a hit.
For starters, the third rounder from the University of Texas showed a lot of fight and toughness in him. The Steelers, as expected, got some hits on the rookie and sacked him 6 times, but McCoy kept getting up and exhibited a grittiness from the get-go that I’m sure plenty of hardworking, blue collar Browns fans immediately recognized and appreciated.
Perhaps the best , and most encouraging, example of McCoy’s toughness came on his very first series as an NFL quarterback. On 3rd and 10, facing a blitzing, untouched, and unfortunately unknown Steeler defender, McCoy stood tall in the pocket and delivered an 18-yard strike to tight end Benjamin Watson.
This play – of all the good plays he made throughout the game – showed me the most.
Pretty much any NFL quarterback can deliver an accurate throw when there’s no pressure and time to throw. Only the good ones, though, can stare down the barrel of a gun and put the ball on the money. McCoy knew he was going to get walloped, yet hung in there and completed the pass. It’s not easy to do that, but it’s great to see it.
McCoy lived up to his collegiate reputation of being a very accurate passer as he completed 69.6 percent (23-33) of his throws for 281 yards and a touchdown.
Even better, McCoy averaged 8.1 yards a completion. He wasn’t just completing passes, he was hitting his receivers in stride and letting them run after the catch.
Based solely on what I saw against the Steelers, Colt can put the ball on the money. Even the first of his two interceptions was a remarkably accurate, albeit risky, throw.
He can make plays.
For young, athletic quarterbacks like McCoy, sometimes their legs are both a blessing and a curse.
In the first half, Colt’s lower extremities worked against him. On the first drive of the game, McCoy failed to step up in the pocket, which resulted in a Harrison sack. Later, on the Browns third offensive series, McCoy failed to get his legs set as he threw an incomplete slant pass to wide receiver Brian Robiskie on a 3rd and 5 situation.
Things got better during the second half, though, as Colt managed to settle down a bit and use his athleticism to his advantage. On the Browns’ lone scoring drive of the game, Colt made a couple of nice plays with his legs. On a 2nd and 6 situation, McCoy demonstrated much better awareness as he stepped up in the pocket to deliver a strike to Watson for a 23-yard gain. That would go on to set up McCoy’s first professional touchdown pass. On this play, McCoy used his legs to escape the pocket and extend the play, which resulted in a 12-yard touchdown pass to Watson, who continues to be a reliable target for Browns QB’s as he caught 6 passes for 88 yards.
Just like Seneca Wallace, this is the type of playmaking ability that McCoy can bring to the Browns. It’s early, but he’s only going to get better knowing when to step up in the pocket, and when to break it and make a play.
Call it intangibles, presence, or whatever you’d like to call it, but Colt seems to have it. I think.
The bottom line is McCoy’s been a winning quarterback his whole life. Based on the very small sample size we witnessed with his first start against the Steelers, there’s reason to believe that this might continue at the NFL level.
Overall, a very promising start to Colt McCoy’s career.