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Browns QB Colt McCoy's professional career didn't start in particularly promising fashion. In his first two preseason starts, McCoy completed just 5-of-12 passes for 25 yards and two interceptions. Those shaky first couple weeks of the season came after McCoy, whom some thought could be a first-round pick in April's draft, slid all the way to Round Three.
But in the final two games of the preseason, McCoy started to find his form, and in his final preseason game, he completed all 13 passes for 131 yards. Still, the expectation was that McCoy would play little, if at all, in his first NFL season.
However, ankle injuries to Seneca Wallace and Jake Delhomme all but forced the Browns to give McCoy, 24, the start Sunday at Pittsburgh. And in his debut, McCoy embraced the opportunity to be competitive in a challenging setting, completing 23-of-33 passes for 281 yards with one touchdown and a pair of interceptions.
“At no point did I feel during that week that he looked at this as being too big for him," Browns head coach Eric Mangini said of McCoy, according to the team's official Web site. "At no point during the game did I feel that way either. He was determined all week to play well and was really excited about the opportunity he had. There was no apprehension.
"That’s about as hard as it gets, to come into this environment as loud as it is with this type of defense and the various looks that they have, it’s tough and I thought he did well.”
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McCoy looks capable of bullding off this debut. He threw a pair of interceptions and can learn lessons from each. The first pick, which was intended for TE Benjamin Watson, was tipped by LOLB LaMarr Woodley and intercepted by FS Ryan Clark. With four Steelers defenders around the ball, McCoy would have been better served throwing elsewhere. On his second pick, he threw behind Watson, S Ryan Mundy deflected the ball and RILB Lawrence Timmons came away with the interception. Pin that one on McCoy's inaccuracy. That said, McCoy threw just 10 incompletions in his debut and successfully connected with receivers on nearly 70 percent of his throws, so his accuracy isn't a big concern in the least.
On Monday, Mangini reportedly said McCoy could start in Week Seven at New Orleans if Delhomme and Wallace remain out with their ankle injuries. Delhomme has injured the same ankle twice, with the second injury coming in Week Five vs. Atlanta, four weeks after the Browns' regular-season opener. Wallace suffered his injury in Week Five. With the Browns having just one game before their Week Eight bye, it wouldn't be a surprise if McCoy got another start.
Should he get that opportunity, he'll face another tough defense. The Saints are seventh in yards allowed per game and have allowed the seventh-fewest passing yards in the NFL. It also remains to be seen if whoever the Browns start at quarterback will have his full complement of targets in the passing game, with WRs Mohamed Massaquoi and Joshua Cribbs sustaining concussions Sunday.
The Browns asked a lot of McCoy Sunday; he attempted 33 passes and was sacked on five other dropbacks. Overall, Cleveland attempted just 22 rushes, and only seven after halftime. This experience should only help him. So would another start. The more he plays, the more he learns — and the more the Browns learn about him. And with Delhomme signed just through 2011 and Wallace a free agent at season's end, that's no small benefit of McCoy's unexpected playing time.