FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The only NFL track record uglier than bad quarterbacks versus Bill Belichick-coached defenses is rookie quarterbacks facing Belichick’s Patriots.
Since 2014, starting rookies have completed 55 percent of their passes for an average of 159 yards per game in seven appearances. They’ve fired five touchdowns and six picks. The Pats have sacked them a combined dozen times.
Belichick is 19-5 against first-year starting quarterbacks during his time as the team’s head coach.
Four of the five triumphant rookies were backed by excellent defenses, including two who went on to make several Pro Bowls (Ben Roethlisberger and Russell Wilson). The only exception of the five will be staring across from Belichick on Sunday: Redskins quarterback Colt McCoy.
Nine years after springing an upset of the Pats in Cleveland, McCoy will start against them Sunday in Washington.
Redskins coach Jay Gruden announced his decision after the Patriots split their week-long preparation between McCoy, first-round rookie Dwayne Haskins and journeyman Case Keenum.
Keenum started last week at the Giants and was later replaced by Haskins, who threw three picks in his NFL debut.
McCoy has completed his recovery from the broken leg he suffered last December that later caused him discomfort over the summer. While he hasn’t produced any game tape this season, the Pats say they understand what he brings to the field.
“He’s the quarterback that’s spent the most time in the system. He knows where he wants to put the ball at. He can control the offense,” said Patriots safety Duron Harmon. “They’ll be looking to get things going with him in there, probably to give them some new life and get going.”
Last season, McCoy made two starts for Washington in injury relief, completing 63 percent of his passes for 372 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions. That film has been instrumental to the defense’s preparation.
“You can definitely see the experience from Colt McCoy,” said defensive tackle Adam Butler. “Just the overall way he operates.”
While the mystery surrounding the Redskins’ quarterback decision has been removed, McCoy and Co. must contend with the remaining unknown that is the Pats’ defensive game plan. Belichick has coached his defense to the league’s No. 1 ranking by dialing up myriad fronts, coverages and pressures through four weeks. Washington coach Jay Gruden knows his quarterback can’t get caught up in the unknown the defense will present, just as the Patriots worked around the mystery his week-long deliberation forced upon them in practice.
“With different fronts you don’t know what you’re going to get, but we have a pretty good standard of how we handle different fronts and different rules and different people. I think the biggest thing is communicating who’s in the game,” Gruden said. “Sometimes they’ll have one defensive lineman, sometimes they’ll have five. You just never know.
“We’ve just got to get the counts right and communicate, and get the ball and play fast.”
Belichick lauds Gostkowski
Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski ranks 12th all time in points scored. If that wasn’t enough to affirm his place in NFL history, Belichick’s comments Friday should.
“Steve Gostkowski’s one of the greatest kickers of all time,” Belichick said. “He’s been great for this franchise. Unfortunately, he’s not available so we’ll move on. Mike (Nugent’s) done a good job. He has a lot of experience. Obviously, we have confidence in Mike or we wouldn’t have signed him. Is it different than Steve? Yeah, we’ll see how it goes.”
Nugent replaced Gostkowski on Thursday, a day after the longtime Pats kicker went on injured reserve with a hip injury. The injury affected Gostkowski’s early-season performance, which included four missed extra points and a field goal sent wide through four weeks. The expectation is Gostkowski will return for the 2020 season.
Gordon off report
After back-to-back limited practices, Patriots wide receiver Josh Gordon was removed from the team’s final injury report Friday.
Gordon had been dealing with a knee injury that surfaced after last weekend’s win at Buffalo. The 28-year-old wideout was lifted from the report with defensive lineman Michael Bennett (shoulder), who was a full participant Thursday. Wide receiver Julian Edelman (chest/ribs) and safety Patrick Chung (heel) were both listed as questionable.
The Patriots signed their backup plan at kicker Friday, inking Younghoe Koo to their practice squad.
The 25-year-old played in four games with the Chargers in 2017 and went 3-of-6 on field goals before receiving his release. More recently, Koo kicked for the Atlanta Legends of the AAF and scored the first points in league history with a 38-yard field goal. He participated in his first practice with the team Friday, alongside Nugent.