Sep 7, 2014; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh McCown (12) against the Carolina Panthers at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
In backup duty for the Bears last year, Josh McCown finished with a stunning stat line. He completed 66.5% of his passes at an 8.2 YPA clip along with 13 touchdowns to just 1 interceptions. With an expiring contract, he found himself reunited with new Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith and signed a modest 2-year $10M contract which handed him the keys to the starting job. Lovie Smith was hoping for more of the same from McCown but he hasn’t been able to reproduce his statistical marks and quite frankly he hasn’t even come close.
Through 2 games, he’s already thrown for more interceptions (3) than he did all of last season. His completion percent is still high at 67.9% but his YPA has fallen dramatically to 6.5. So what’s gone wrong?
Well for starters, he’s still the same quarterback he was last season but factors around him have changed. He’s feeling pressure quicker and more frequently this year as the offensive line has failed to gel just yet. He also gambled often with contested passes last year to Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, particularly when under pressure, which the star duo regularly hauled in. He had a nice underneath safety blanket in Matt Forte who could pick up YAC with the best of them and an intermediate one with Martellus Bennett who possesses a big frame. Forte was also a constant threat to run the ball and had a great year, going for over 1300 yards and 4.6 YPC. In short, his supporting cast was much better in Chicago than in Tampa Bay.
Due to the questionable offensive line, McCown has had to settle primarily for short throws and rarely has had the opportunity to push the ball downfield. He hasn’t handled pressure very well at all, with the end result being iffy decisions and poor throws resulting in interceptions. His interception to Rodney McLoud was a very poor play.
The above may not matter with the Falcons’ pass rushing ineptitude. As bad as McCown has been against pressure, he has looked very capable when he’s got time and is kept clean so don’t be shocked if he looks good on a few drives just like Geno Smith did at the Georgia Dome last year. The key to stopping McCown is pressure.