Colt McCoy, plunged into playoff race, brings grit to New York Giants' offense

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The likelihood is the New York Giants will face Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday (4:05 p.m. ET, Fox) with Colt McCoy at quarterback. This is their reality in the middle of a playoff race unless Daniel Jones makes some kind of miraculous recovery from a hamstring injury suffered on Sunday.

McCoy, 34, is a veteran who is in his 11th professional season, but he has made only seven starts in the past nine years. The last time he started and won was October 2014, when he led Washington past Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys in overtime.

So asking McCoy to win on the road for his first win as a starter in six years against the Seahawks (8-3) is a lot, even if he is facing the league's worst pass defense. And it comes with the Giants (4-7) playing meaningful December football for the first time in years.

They enter this week in first place in the NFC East by virtue of a tiebreaker, but with the same record as the Washington Football Team. Every game is valuable, backup quarterback or not.

"[McCoy's] going to step in, he's going to do his thing, and that's what world we're living in right now," Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard said Monday. "I feel like he'll execute, step up and make plays."

McCoy did just enough to help the Giants escape Cincinnati with a 19-17 victory. It was an opportunity to get his feet wet during a game in this offense.

Shepard said the Giants have had enough work with McCoy in practice, and his confidence in him is "through the roof." That confidence seems to be reciprocated. In the quarter and a half that McCoy played, four of his 10 targets were to Shepard.

Some of it was situational football (the Giants were leading and trying to run out the clock), and some of it was playing to the backup quarterback's strengths. McCoy doesn't have the arm talent or physical ability of Jones, the Giants' leading rusher. The offense is naturally going to look different with McCoy if he plays the entire game in Seattle.

"Look, he's a vet, he has a lot of experience," Giants coach Joe Judge said. "He goes out there with a good amount of savvy, can really manage a game. We'll set the game up however we need to, whether it's Daniel, whether it's Colt, whether it's Clayton [Thorson], whoever it ends up being, in terms of working to their strong points."

If training camp and intrasquad scrimmages are any indication, McCoy will be using a lot of play-action passes and underneath throws to his running backs and top possession receivers, such as Shepard and tight end Evan Engram. The down-the-field throws to big-play wide receiver Darius Slayton probably won't be as frequent or accessible as they are with Jones.

The Giants should also again rely heavily on a running game, led by Wayne Gallman, that ranks seventh in the NFL, averaging 134.4 yards per game since Week 5. Jones has undoubtedly been a big part of that success, with the run-pass options and zone reads becoming staples in the game plan. Those plays won't disappear with McCoy.

"Colt's got a history of running the ball. He's an athletic quarterback. He's a tough dude, he's a gritty dude," Judge said. "[Sunday], he was running the ball. You go back earlier in his career, he did the same thing. Through college, high school and all that stuff. ... Put the ball in his hand, put him on the edge and let him run around, throw the ball from the pocket. Run some RPOs, some zone reads. There's not much we have to change in the offense."

But there is also a wild and sometimes reckless element to McCoy's game. He almost threw a costly interception into double coverage on his second pass after replacing Jones. McCoy has thrown 27 career interceptions compared to 29 touchdown passes.

With the risk also comes the reward, which the Giants' defense has seen in practice.

"He diagnoses coverages really well; very fast. He gets through his progressions really well," Giants safety Jabrill Peppers said of McCoy. "He has some tricks that he likes to throw at us. Whether it's his no-look passes or looking off the safety, throwing it back side. He definitely does a lot of things to help us prepare for what we're going to see on Sundays."

As quarterbacks coach Jerry Schuplinski said, it's a lot easier to pull out the no-look passes when you're quarterbacking the scout team. A game has significantly more consequences.

But it reinforces the idea McCoy isn't going to lack aggression.

"He does have that ability," Schuplinski said. "He sees the field pretty well. ... Probably one of his biggest strengths is that he can recognize coverage and get the ball out quickly to where he wants to go. Sometimes that includes looking people off. He may have a little extra fun on the show team, but he'll be pretty dialed in if he has to go in there."

The Giants seem to have full confidence in McCoy, who is trying to complete a redemption story of his own. He suffered a serious leg injury in 2018 that admittedly was "a lot worse" than everybody outside of him and his family knew. He came back to start one game last season, a blowout loss to the New England Patriots.

But another opportunity has seemingly arrived. And in a key spot, no less.