- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 6, 2019

RICHMOND — Through the complexity of Jay Gruden’s system, Colt McCoy serves as a translator.

When wideout Terry McLaurin comes back to the sideline and meets with McCoy, the quarterback breaks down plays in a simplistic method to help the rookie gain a further grasp of the offense. As plays break out of a huddle, sixth-rounder Kelvin Harmon notes that McCoy instructs him on “the little things,” such as how deep to go on reps. Both appreciate the guidance.

“You can definitely tell he’s been in the system a lot,” Harmon said.

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If there’s a reason to take McCoy seriously in the Redskins’ quarterback competition, it shouldn’t be because he was listed as the first-team quarterback on the team’s depth chart earlier this week — an order that meant “nothing,” according to Gruden.

Rather, it’s McCoy’s experience — and comfortability — that makes him a contender to win the starting job. The 32-year-old is entering his sixth season in Gruden’s offense, giving him a significant advantage over Case Keenum and Dwayne Haskins as they compete.

McCoy’s knowledge has allowed him to make up for missing all of Washington’s OTAs while he recovered from three leg surgeries.

As the Redskins prepare for Thursday’s preseason opener in Cleveland, Gruden is keeping his decision about who will start under center close to the vest. He declined to disclose his choice to the media, saying he had yet to inform his players.

But it shouldn’t surprise anyone if it is McCoy who gets the start against the Browns.

“He’s been good,” Gruden said of McCoy. “He’s been up and down a little bit. We have such high expectations for him, and sometimes he’ll miss a throw, very uncharacteristic. But overall after missing all of OTAs and a major part of last year, he’s come in and handled his stuff pretty well.”

Gruden has always spoken fondly of McCoy. When Kirk Cousins’ departure was inevitable in 2018, the Redskins coach expressed confidence McCoy could handle the starting job if need be — only for management to trade for Alex Smith.

Then when Smith went down with a broken leg in November, Gruden, again, said McCoy was capable of leading the Redskins.

But every time McCoy is seemingly about to get — or gets — his chance, the veteran has it taken away. Last season, McCoy broke his leg on “Monday Night Football,” just two weeks after Smith’s injury. It was reminiscent of 2014, when McCoy suffered a season-ending neck injury following his fourth start late into the year.

“I don’t think it’s been my play on the field that has taken me off the field,” McCoy said on July 26. “I have to sort of remind myself that I am confident in that, confident in what we do.”

Even now, staying healthy is a major point of emphasis.

The Redskins have remained cautious with their quarterback throughout camp, giving him an off day following every three straight days of practice. He was also held out on Washington’s last team drill Monday as a precaution.

McCoy could be seen limping as he walked off the practice field, as well.

These days, McCoy said he feels good. He certainly didn’t plan to have to keep working on his rehab for this long. When he first went down in December, the Redskins had some optimism the quarterback could even return before the season was over. Instead, McCoy required two additional surgeries to “fix some things,” though he declined to elaborate.

McCoy, too, beams when he discusses his progress. He recalled an instance when years ago, Saints quarterback Drew Brees told him that the older a quarterback gets, the stronger their arm feels. At first, McCoy thought Brees was lying. But now that McCoy is at a similar age, he realizes Brees was serious. It gives him confidence.

Through it all, McCoy never lost grasp of where he stood in Washington’s eyes. He watched this offseason as the Redskins again traded for a veteran quarterback (Keenum) and later drafted a passer in the first round (Haskins).

As it unfolded, McCoy said his coaches and those around delivered the same message: “Get healthy and then we’ll see where we are.”

Months later, McCoy worked his way back — and he’s ready to not let another chance pass him by.

“I understand the opportunity at hand,” McCoy said.

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