Assuming he’s healthy come Sunday, veteran quarterback Josh McCown will start for the Cleveland Browns at Heinz Field against the Pittsburgh Steelers and that’s exactly what head coach Mike Tomlin is expecting to happen.
“We’re just proceeding with the understanding that Josh is the guy,” Tomlin said via Wednesday during his media conference call. “I think that’s what (Mike Pettine) said yesterday. I know those guys have had 10 days off. He’s their guy. Not only is he their guy, he’s the No. 1 quarterback on third down in the NFL. I was looking at those stats yesterday. I think it would be prudent for us to prepare for him.”
So what about those third down stats that Tomlin has admitted to looking at?
For starters, McCown, who was limited on Wednesday with a rib injury, has completed 72.9% of his 70 attempted third down throws so far this season and he leads all quarterbacks who have attempted at least 26 third down throws in that stat.
Completing third down throws is nice, but completing them for first downs is even better and McCown has indeed been able to do just that so far this season. He enters Week 10 leading the league with 54.3% of his third down pass attempts resulting in first downs. In case you’re curious, McCown’s backup, Johnny Manziel, enters Week 10 with a 48.1% completion percentage on third downs with only 40.7% of his third down passes resulting in a first down.
There is a hidden number in those third down stats of McCown’s, however, as he’s been sacked 11 times so far this season on that crucial down. On the flip side, McCown’s averaging 15.5 yards on his completed third down passes.
Here’s something else to consider with Third Down McCown when you look forward to him potentially starting on Sunday. 26 of his 51 completed passes on third downs so far this season have gone to either tight end Gary Barnidge (15) or running back Duke Johnson (11). Barnidge, by the way, has turned 12 of those third down catches from McCown into first downs. Including all third down passes by Browns quarterbacks this season, Barnidge has been targeted a total of 22 times and 5 of his 15 total catches have resulted in touchdowns.
So far this season, the Steelers defense has allowed 56.2% of all third down passes to be completed against them. Only 38.2% of those third down attempts have resulted in first downs or a touchdown.
Strangely enough, McCown has never played against the Steelers despite him being in the league since 2002. Last season, as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, McCown was forced to miss the Week 4 game against the Steelers with a thumb injury.
2015 NFL Leaders %First Downs, Pass on 3rd Down
|1||J. McCown||Cle||54.3 ( 38/70 )|
|2||J. Cutler||Chi||52.1 ( 37/71 )|
|3||A. Dalton||Cin||51.6 ( 32/62 )|
|4||T. Brady||NE||51.5 ( 35/68 )|
|5t||C. Palmer||Ari||50.0 ( 31/62 )|
|5t||B. Roethlisberger||Pit||50.0 ( 24/48 )|
|7||D. Brees||NO||46.4 ( 45/97 )|
|8||M. Ryan||Atl||46.3 ( 44/95 )|
|9||K. Cousins||Was||46.2 ( 43/93 )|
|10||R. Fitzpatrick||NYJ||45.1 ( 32/71 )|
|11||E. Manning||NYG||45.1 ( 41/91 )|
|12||D. Carr||Oak||45.0 ( 36/80 )|
|13||P. Rivers||SD||43.0 ( 40/93 )|
|14||B. Hoyer||Hou||42.6 ( 26/61 )|
|15||R. Wilson||Sea||41.9 ( 26/62 )|
|16||T. Taylor||Buf||41.9 ( 18/43 )|
|17||A. Luck||Ind||41.4 ( 29/70 )|
|18||M. Mariota||Ten||40.4 ( 21/52 )|
|19||M. Cassel||Dal||39.3 ( 11/28 )|
|20||B. Bortles||Jax||39.0 ( 30/77 )|