Unlike many of his peers, Browns quarterback Colt McCoy didn’t waste any time during the 132-day NFL lockout.
The second-year pro organized four unofficial team camps and made countless public appearances. But more than anything else, he studied Cleveland’s brand new playbook from cover to cover.
McCoy’s hard work paid off Saturday night, when he was the best player on the field during the Browns’ 27-17 preseason-opening victory over the Green Bay Packers.
He completed 9 of 10 throws for 135 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions and a 152.1 passer rating – all while running the West Coast Offense for the first time against actual opposition.
“I thought (Colt) was pretty sharp,” Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. “To me, it looked like the game was moving pretty slow for him, which is good. He executed well and he was pretty efficient with his throws.”
In reality, McCoy was much better than “pretty sharp” and “pretty efficient” against the defending Super Bowl champions at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
Even with the huge caveat that this was a meaningless exhibition game, the Texas native was nearly flawless in leading Cleveland to two touchdowns in three drives.
“After playing Browns vs. Browns for so long (at training camp), it was great to be out there against somebody else,” said McCoy, who had a team-high 1,576 passing yards in 2010. “We played well and we executed against a very good team.”
McCoy connected with six receivers over the first 17 minutes – only failing to convert on a short toss to rookie Greg Little – and averaged a solid 13.5 yards per attempt.
The two-time All-American hooked up with the Browns’ best offensive player (Peyton Hillis), their top two tight ends (Benjamin Watson and Evan Moore), and their three best healthy wide receivers (Joshua Cribbs, Little, and Brian Robiskie) in a truly impressive outing.
“He worked us down the field twice, which is a real good start,” Shurmur said. “That’s the mark of a good quarterback, getting your team in the end zone.”
It’s also a very good sign for Cleveland, which saw its running backs average just 2.7 yards per carry against Green Bay’s first- and second-stringers.
That meant McCoy had to make plays, which he did against a Packers defense that was only missing one starter in Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Woodson.
On the Browns’ first possession, he engineered an eight-play, 71-yard drive, topped by a gorgeous 27-yard TD to Cribbs along the right sideline.
Cribbs got away with a small pushoff on Packers cornerback Pat Lee near the goal line, but the key was McCoy throwing the ball where no Green Bay player could reach it.
“I was pretty comfortable out there and thought we did pretty well,” said McCoy, who went 5-for-5 for 72 yards on the opening drive. “We know we’ve got a long way to go, but this was a great opportunity for us to go out and see where we were at.”
McCoy also went deep to fuel Cleveland’s third drive, making back-to-back completions to Watson that covered 19 and 37 yards, respectively. That moved the football down to the Packers 3, where Hillis punched it home and put the Browns back ahead at 14-7.
“We were able to throw and catch a little bit, and our offensive line was outstanding,” McCoy said. “I also thought the fans were awesome and it was great to be back at the stadium.”
And if that wasn’t enough, McCoy made one additional statement on the warm summer evening.
Backup Seneca Wallace has spent many years under this exact West Coast system, but did not impress, killing dead any thoughts of a quarterback controversy.
“Camp Colt” is here to stay, and it looks like a fun place to visit.
“We know we’re going to throw the ball around this season,” McCoy said. “And tonight was a good start.”
Contact Brian Dulik at email@example.com.