OWINGS MILLS – Colt McCoy knows what’s coming, so he’s bracing for the Baltimore Ravens’ aggressive blitz packages.
The Cleveland Browns’ rookie quarterback saw how the Ravens attacked New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, the reigning Super Bowl Most Valuable Player, last week.
Now, it’s his turn.
“Baltimore blitzed pretty much every play, and they were coming after him, they were pressuring him, and then you watch the other games,” McCoy said Thursday during a conference call with Baltimore reporters. “I expect to see a lot of pressure, I expect to see them coming after us a little bit, and how we handle that is going to determine how successful we are in the game.”
The Ravens sacked Brees three times, forcing two fumbles.
Despite his success as an inexperienced quarterback, the former University of Texas star figures to face a similar strategy from Ravens defensive coordinator Greg Mattison on Sunday.
Until McCoy proves he can beat pressure schemes and disguised coverages, he’s going to see plenty of attempts to confuse and intimidate him.
“You want to try to make sure he doesn’t see it like he saw it on the blackboard,” Mattison said. “Our thing is going to be like we always do: Mix up pressure, mix up four-man rush, five-man rush, three-man rush, just don’t give them a steady diet.
“You want to make them as uncomfortable as you can, and all of that starts with stopping the run. The thing you have to do with a young guy, especially, is you’ve got to make him one-dimensional.”
McCoy has completed 65.8 percent of his throws for 1,218 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions for a 93.0 quarterback rating, respectable numbers.
In a loss to the Cincinnati Bengals last week, he completed 19 of 25 passes for 243 yards with two touchdowns no interceptions and a 132.6 rating.
“He looks really smart,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “Colt McCoy looks like a guy, for a rookie, at his stage of his development he looks like really has a great feel for the game. The things you saw at Texas he’s transferred to the NFL, which you don’t always see with quarterbacks. They do a nice job of setting up the passing game around what he does well and what he understands, but he’s looked very comfortable.”
Although McCoy is 2-4 as a starter, he leads all rookies in completion percentage and he has the best quarterback rating for rookies with more than one start this year.
Under Harbaugh, the Ravens have thrived against young quarterbacks.
McCoy doesn’t seem like the ordinary raw rookie, though.
“He’s a young guy, but you can tell he’s a scrappy guy,” outside linebacker Jarret Johnson said. “At this point, there are no more rookies. Even though he’s only been starting a couple of games, he’s obviously got a lot of talent. They put him over Jake Delhomme, so he’s obviously got something.”
McCoy has been sacked 19 times, displaying a bad habit of holding onto the football too long in the pocket instead of throwing it away when nothing’s open downfield.
“You definitely see the rookie mistakes, but you also see the potential, why they did draft him, too,” middle linebacker Ray Lewis said. “He really moves around with the ball way better than people might think he does. His delivery is great on the ball, on actually getting the ball out of his hands.
“To see his development, you’re really seeing him slow down and really trying to read the game. They’re really using him on a lot of boots and stuff, getting him out of the pockets. Even on third downs, he’s made some plays with his legs. So it’ll be a challenge. At the same time, we’ll definitely go in there and try to pressure.”
Drafted in the second round, McCoy is looking like a keeper.
However, the Browns don’t want to burden him with high expectations or declarations that he’ll be the long-term starter.
“I haven’t talked to him about that, and I think that’s more pressure to put on him than needs to be put on him,” Browns coach Eric Mangini said. "Really, what I’ve liked about Colt is the way that he’s gotten these opportunities and each time, he’s gotten a little better when he’s gone out and played.
“I think he had an easier time going from not being the man to being the man than vice versa. I think it was hard for him when he first got here to be the No. 3 because he was used to getting all the reps, he was used to being [in] that leadership role, and that was a tough transition. Then when he got put back into the No. 1 spot, that transition was a lot easier because he has a comfort level being there.”
The Browns are expecting the Ravens to come after McCoy if they can shut down running back Peyton Hillis.
“The Ravens defense has the ability to put pressure on anybody they face,” Mangini said. “It’s a problem, and it’s a problem for everybody they face.”