Here's five takeaways from Redskins quarterback Colt McCoy's Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2014, press conference at Redskins Park in Loudoun County, Va.:
1. The Redskins' offense is trying to figure out how it can improve upon its struggles in third-and-long situations.
For the season, Washington has converted just 2-of-48 (4.2 percent) third downs of 10 yards or more, and the team faced this scenario on six of its first seven third-down situations last Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts.
On the flip side, the Redskins do very well in third-and-short and even third-and-medium situations, but for McCoy, getting a few more conversions on third-and-long could work wonders for the Washington offense.
"The statistics – to be a good offense, I think you want to convert around 25-30 percent of those, right? So, we're obviously below that and we've got to get better," he said. "I think the thing you can help yourself with is not staying in third-and-longs all the time. I felt like in the first half last week, we just stayed in third-and-long, third-and-long, third-and-long. It was hard to find a way to convert, and the first time we did convert on third-and-10, we went down and scored a touchdown."
2. Pierre Garçon is always involved in the game plan – "it's just a matter of staying protected and finding him throughout the progressions."
Last season, Garçon led the league in catches. This season, while he's still having a solid season, Garçon's numbers have dropped significantly.
McCoy said the opposing defenses have done a good job limiting Garçon's targets, but this has, in turn, led to better looks for guys like DeSean Jackson, who is turning in another Pro Bowl-quality season.
But because Garçon is so talented with the ball in his hands – yards after catch are his specialty – McCoy said he's continuing to search for ways to get the Mount Union product more involved, despite what the defense is throwing at them.
"A lot of our concepts and plays, we just have got to be more aware of where Pierre is, how we can be creative in getting him the football," McCoy said.
3. Increasing the offense's tempo early in the game could lead to some major gains.
The Redskins were unable to capitalize last Sunday when their defense forced turnovers on the Indianapolis Colts' first two drives of the game, putting up just three combined points. Both head coach Jay Gruden and McCoy attributed that to a "flat" start by the offense.
Top images from Washington Redskins' practice on Dec. 3, 2014, at Redskins Park in Loudoun County, Va.
They said they're going to work on that this week in practice.
"Getting guys in and out of the huddle, getting lined-up," McCoy said. "I felt like last week early in the game, I wasn't getting the call in until 20-25 seconds, then getting everybody to the line, trying to see the defense and make my adjustments on the line of scrimmage on the road. That's just tough to do."
McCoy has been much more effective in the second half of games this season, particularly the third quarter, when he has completed a combined 28-of-32 passes for 402 yards and three touchdowns. But he knows on Sunday, the St. Louis Rams and their opportunistic defense – they lead the NFL with eight takeaways the past two weeks – aren't exactly going to be willing to let them get off to a fast start.
"St. Louis has a great defense. They always have the last several years," McCoy said. "I played in their division last year, and it was always a headache. Those guys come at you from all different directions, and they have got a great front four who can get pressure on the passer, and their blitz packages on third down are probably the best in the league. We definitely have our hands full with them this week."
4. Jordan Reed is good. Very good.
When Reed is healthy and able to play, he has displayed the ability to produce with the best tight ends in the league.
Last Sunday against the Colts, he shredded their secondary for nine catches and 123 yards, with a long of 30 yards.
Reed – in his second year out of Florida – is already gaining a reputation as one of the best route runners in the NFL, and if he can shake his hamstring issues, he should be able to finish off the season on a strong note.
"Jordan is a tremendous athlete. He has got great hands and good ball skills," McCoy said. "I like throwing to him, for sure. I think with him in the lineup and on the field, we can see coverages a little better, 'Who's guarding Jordan? Is it a safety? A linebacker? Are they keeping a corner on him?' He's a great player to have, a good asset to have, and he continuing to get better every time he steps on the field."
5. McCoy thinks "there's three really good quarterbacks" on the Redskins' roster, and he's "proud to be playing right now."
The veteran out of Texas was asked why he thinks he is the best choice to start at quarterback down the stretch for the Redskins.
"That decision is not my decision, first of all," he said. "I don't get paid enough money for that."
All joking aside, McCoy definitely doesn't want to compare himself to the team's other quarterbacks – Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins – but instead preferred to talk about what he feels he brings to the table.
"I just want to compete. I want to play hard. I want to play fast. I want to distribute the football. I want to make good decisions. I want to be a good leader. I want to be a good communicator," he said. "I think all those things is what Jay [Gruden] is looking for and I just go out there and each day at practice, each day in meetings, in the locker room, just be the best I can be – be the best quarterback I can be – and overall I guess that is what Jay decided to go with."