Cleveland Browns rookie quarterback Colt McCoy is preparing to face the firing squad. In less than an hour, the winningest quarterback in college football history will be tested by the legendary defense of Dick LeBeau.
In his college career at the University of Texas, McCoy rarely seemed rattled by opposing defenses on his way to an all-time best 45 career wins. Today he will attempt to translate that poise and success into NFL glory.
It is difficult to imagine a tougher test for the young signal-caller. Year in and year out, the Pittsburgh Steelers rank at the top of the league in almost every defensive category. Defensive coordinator LeBeau is a one of, if not the best defensive mind in the history of the game. Pittsburgh's defense is a blitz-happy unit that utilizes different packages and looks on almost every single down. Even scarier, the Steelers are coming off of a week of rest, and the team is healthy.
Not only is McCoy going to see things defensively that he didn't see in college, he is likely to see things that he couldn't even imagine. LeBeau loves to bring pressure on the quarterback from all positions on the field, and it will be another aspect that will be new to McCoy. Keeping track of standout defenders such as Troy Polamalu and James Harrison is a difficult task for a seasoned veteran, let alone a rookie.
Unfortunately, the Browns are left with little choice but to start McCoy as quarterbacks Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace are suffering from ankle injuries. When McCoy was drafted, team president Mike Holmgren stated that the plan was to let the rookie sit for a year or two to learn the game before taking the field. Those plans went out the window last week when Delhomme and Wallace were injured against the Atlanta Falcons.
Facing the Steelers in his first NFL start will be difficult, to say the least. However it is not an impossible task. The Steelers rank 20th in pass defense, allowing 226 yards a game through the air. Unfortunately for McCoy, the defense has also recorded 11 sacks through four games.
Make no mistake, McCoy is a smart, mobile player and he is hungry to win at the NFL level. Winning is something that seems to come naturally to McCoy as he has proved time and time again.
It will be up to the coaching staff in Cleveland to design a game plan to protect their young quarterback. It the Browns can find a way to move the ball on the ground and get the ball out of McCoy's hand quickly, the rookie might just survive the afternoon.
While Colt McCoy would love nothing more than to come away with a victory in his NFL debut, if he is able to come away uninjured and with confidence intact, it will be a moral victory for a Browns team that has been searching for a franchise quarterback for more than a decade.