Cleveland Browns: Will Colt McCoy Endure a Sophomore Slump?

Hayden GroveContributor IIISeptember 1, 2011

PHILADELPHIA, PA - AUGUST 25:  Colt McCoy #12 of the Cleveland Browns in action against the Philadelphia Eagles during their pre season game on August 25, 2011 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Colt McCoy has been impressive this preseason for the Browns. There is no denying that. 

His preseason stat line reads a little something like this: 28-for-46, 320 yards, four touchdowns, one interception and a 101.7 quarterback rating. Those numbers, mind you, are while playing only about five to six quarters of football.

But the question still remains: Will Colt McCoy continue his preseason tear and avoid the infamous sophomore slump?

As a rookie, Colt McCoy held his own. He completed 60 percent of his passes and threw for 1,576 yards against defenses among the likes of Pittsburgh, New Orleans, New England, Miami and Baltimore. He beat the Saints and Patriots in back-to-back games, a feat that is unprecedented among rookie quarterbacks.

He struggled at times, especially against Pittsburgh at the end of the year, but even then he held his composure and had the maturity of an NFL veteran. His six touchdowns to nine interceptions weren't as bad as they seem, however, as Colt was rushed a great deal, with a weak right side of the line. Dropped passes also plagued McCoy, as balls were often tipped into the air and intercepted by opposing defensive backs.

This preseason Colt has looked mightily impressive, and that preseason success will translate into his 2011 campaign.

In a way, the stars are aligning for McCoy as he's coming into the perfect situation to succeed. 

With half of a rookie season under his belt, McCoy is already well adjusted to NFL defenses. His performances last year proved that as he was able to move the ball effectively against a nasty group of defenses that appeared on the Browns' schedule. These experiences are going to help McCoy, but not as much as the new Browns coach, Pat Shurmur.

Shurmur is going to play a big part in Colt McCoy's success. When Shurmur arrived, he brought in a scheme that really had never been put to good use in Cleveland. It's a system that relies on a short, accurate passing game known as the "West Coast Offense," and it couldn't be better suited to fit Colt McCoy. He isn't going to "wow" you with his arm, or his size, but McCoy is capable of making great decisions, and putting the ball right where it needs to be, which is perfect for the West Coast system.

But then again, what good is a quarterback when he has no one to throw to? That's where McCoy again has an advantage, and no, it's not necessarily the receivers, but rather, the tight ends.

Ben Watson and Evan Moore are also going to help Colt McCoy in his quest to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump.

Watson and Moore are quite the duo. Both are great tight ends, one of which is more notable while the other flies more under the radar. Watson has the experience. He's won a Super Bowl, he's played for Tom Brady and he's extremely reliable. Moore has incredible size, brains and hands. These will undoubtedly become two of McCoy's favorite targets. Their ability to make plays, as well as their ability to fit in so well into the West Coast system, is going to make the both of them essential to the Browns' offense, and to the success Colt McCoy.

Finally, the Browns' schedule is going to allow for Colt McCoy to excel this season. The Browns have a schedule that is somewhat lacking on the defensive end. A usual occurrence in a sophomore slump is that the rookie has an advantageous schedule that allows for his success and is not a true measure of what he is capable of. For Colt, this is actually the opposite of his case. 

When McCoy made his NFL debut, he faced what is probably the most dirty, nasty and hard-nosed defense in the NFL in the Pittsburgh Steelers, and he played incredibly well for his first start as a pro. McCoy was then thrown to the dogs against the Saints and Patriots, who also are known as very astute defenses. And again McCoy played incredibly well, leading the Browns to victories against both teams. It's clear that McCoy has seen the worst that NFL defenses have to offer and has excelled against those defenses.

This season, McCoy will have to face Baltimore and Pittsburgh again, but other than those two divisional opponents, the Browns' schedule is littered with below-average defenses. They play Seattle, Oakland, San Francisco, Houston, St. Louis and Arizona, all teams that are not known as being defensively sound. McCoy should be able to excel against these defenses as he's seen far worse already.

The Browns are putting a lot of stock in Colt McCoy. They're really banking on him to become the man in Cleveland for many years to come. If Colt McCoy can avoid a sophomore slump, he could be well on his way to being the guy for the Browns, as well as being a great NFL quarterback.

Unlike many guys, McCoy has all the tools he needs to avoid the slump and begin his journey into stardom.