He needs time together with his receivers and offensive line, and time in practice when he can run plays that they’ll use during the next game. That’s something McCoy still hasn’t experienced since 2014.
The Redskins and McCoy hope that whatever issues he had in his first start, a 31-23 loss to Dallas on Thursday, can quickly be corrected with a full week to prepare. Otherwise, hopes of winning the NFC East will continue to dissipate.
The Redskins have a struggling run game and a defense that hasn’t stopped the run effectively in recent weeks. Even though they remain tied with the Cowboys for the division lead at 6-5, a boost from McCoy has become a must in order to stay in playoff contention.
McCoy was thrust into the starting role Nov. 18, when Alex Smith broke his leg, and the Redskins had only walk-through practices leading up to the matchup at Dallas four days later. This week, McCoy will get five days of work preparing for the Dec. 3 game at Philadelphia. McCoy’s rust showed at Dallas, where he threw for two touchdowns and had three interceptions.
“Colt, in fairness to him, hasn’t had any reps with the 1s, going through the process of a game plan of going through the plays, watching the plays of him doing it,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “He’s been watching Alex [Smith] do everything the entire year. He’s been watching Kirk [Cousins] do it the entire year before that, so this process of being a starting quarterback is something that repetition is necessary and critical in the quarterback’s progress and the reps will help considerably, I’d hope.”
The real corrections during the week occur after practice, when coaches and players see what they did on film. Walk-throughs are for going over plays at a slow pace.
“That’s why practice is so important,” Gruden said. “When you’re just doing walk-throughs, you don’t really make the mistakes to correct. It’s here’s what we are trying to do here, here’s our strength coach playing a third corner, so it’s a little bit different. But I think when you’re able to get the looks, and you’re still not going to get the exact looks you are going to see every time, but still going through the repetition. I’ve always believe that repetition is key and if you don’t get the reps, it will set you back a little bit.”
How much it helps remains to be seen. It’s not as though every issue stemmed from a lack of practice time. McCoy was definitely more aggressive in the passing game than Smith had been as the starter in the first 10 games before his season-ending injury.
At times, McCoy might have been too aggressive. The eighth-year player tried to connect with receivers down the sidelines when the defensive back had the advantage. But some of that can be corrected through more work; McCoy was trying to make back-shoulder throws, but the timing was off. That hadn’t been much of a tactic with Smith. McCoy did complete some of those deeper outs, like a 17-yarder to Josh Docston in the fourth quarter, hitting his plant foot and throwing.
“I was throwing some trust balls to guys, knowing this is how we’re coaching this up,” McCoy said. “This is how I see and I’m going to fire it in there. A couple of times that got me in trouble. But I also want those guys to know that I trust them and I’m going to let the ball fly. I’m going to give them a chance to make plays. If we can make plays, we can be pretty dynamic.”
McCoy also said he left the pocket too early at times. The line and McCoy must get used to one another. It’s different blocking for Smith than for McCoy, based on the different ways they like to move in the pocket.
“There were a couple times I got spooked maybe,” McCoy said. “As the game went on, I started getting more comfortable. My tackles started getting more comfortable with where I was setting up in the pocket.”
Will one week cure everything? That’s hard to imagine. But the Redskins will need — and expect — progress.