Now this looks like the real McCoy

Posted Sep 22, 2012

After catching only 13 passes in his first two seasons with the Seahawks, tight end Anthony McCoy is coming off a five-reception game heading into Monday night’s matchup against the Packers.

In his first two seasons with the Seahawks, Anthony McCoy caught 13 passes, and a lot of flak for those he didn’t catch. Entering Monday night’s game against the Green Bay Packers at CenturyLink Field, he already has five receptions and caught a touchdown pass in last week’s upset of the Dallas Cowboys.

What’s the difference between this McCoy and that McCoy?

“Well, I’m playing a whole lot more,” McCoy said with a laugh.

That’s as good a place as any to start with this tale of redemption. McCoy was a sixth-round draft choice in 2010 – the first season Pete Carroll, his former coach at USC, was coaching the Seahawks. The team already had John Carlson, a second-round pick in 2008 who was coming off 55- and 51-catch seasons, and Cameron Morrah, a seventh-round pick in 2009 with the speed to stretch a defense. Then a knee injury ended McCoy’s season after only two games, and no catches.

Last season, the tight end house only got more crowed when former Pro Bowler Zach Miller was signed in free agency, making it appear that the battle for the third spot was an either/or decision between McCoy and Morrah. But when Carlson went down during training camp with a season-ending shoulder injury, both stuck.

This year, Carlson left in free agency, only to be replaced by another former Pro Bowler – Kellen Winslow. Again, it looked like McCoy would have to compete for a roster spot. And compete he did, playing well enough during training camp and the preseason to earn the backup spot to Miller. First Morrah was released and then Winslow, with Evan Moore being added to fill the third spot.

“Anthony has really grown into a versatile tight end for us,” Carroll said. “He’s one of our best blockers. He’s not quite to Zach’s level, but he really does a great job on all the in-line blocking. He moves around well. He’s a great target to throw the ball to.”

Rookie quarterback Russell Wilson agrees with that last assessment. He targeted McCoy five times against the Cowboys, and they connected each time.

“Anthony is a guy that’s got tremendous talent,” Wilson said. “He’s got so much speed. He’s got great hands. He’s a great route-runner. He’s a very, very intelligent guy who’s worked extremely hard, not only on the field but also in the film room.”

“Great hands” and “Anthony McCoy” were never included in the same sentence during his first two seasons with the Seahawks, but Carroll knew the pass-catching prowess was there.

“He does have really good hands,” Carroll said. “There’s been times when he’s coming up, getting ready to play NFL football, that he hasn’t been able to keep his concentration that’s needed to catch the football.

“But he’s on it now. His attitude that he brings and his effort every day is just really, really positive. I’ve never seen him so full of spirit and the kind of mentality that he has. It’s infectious. He’s been a really good factor for us. I’m really excited for him.”

It all started with gaining a better, well, handle on the receiving aspects of the position, and with more success there the renewal of his other skills has followed.

“He really has done a great job over this offseason of really focusing on football,” tight ends coach Pat McPherson said. “He’s catching the ball better, No. 1, and that’s a really big thing for him. He’s just done a beautiful job.

“He very rarely makes a mistake. That’s kind of been his thing since he got here. But he wasn’t really satisfied with how he played last season and he just set his mind to, ‘Hey, this is my year.’ ”

So far, better than good. Only Sidney Rice (seven) has more receptions than McCoy, and he shares the lead in TD catches with Rice. McPherson is comfortable putting McCoy at either spot in the two-tight sets the Seahawks use so often, and his touchdown play last week came from a three-tight end set with Miller, McCoy and Moore cluster on the right side.

“The tight ends these days are starting to become a bigger part of the offenses,” McCoy said. “In this offense, we’re a huge part. A lot the stuff we do is based off what we’re doing. So yeah, it’s been fun.”

McCoy got even more snaps against the Cowboys because Miller “limped through the game,” as Carroll put it, with a lingering foot injury. By getting more chances, McCoy made more plays. By making more plays, he’ll get more chances.

“It’s just a different mindset,” he said. “Now that I’m playing more, it’s just that mindset of going out there and just giving 100 percent and getting the job done for the team.”

A prep All-American wide receiver at Bullard High School in Fresno, Calif., McCoy has had to make himself into the blocker he has become – starting as a freshman at USC.

“That was a big transition for me,” he said. “But that’s something I really pride myself on and I want to continue to perfect.”

At times, the emphasis on blocking has been at the expense of his receiving.

“That was a big knock for me – consistency,” he said. “But that’s something I really focused on this past offseason and it’s shown. I’ve just got to keep doing what I’m doing and just keep progressing as the season goes on.”

Again, so far, better than good.

“Anthony has been a really good prospect,” Carroll said. “This was a great pick for us a couple years back.”

One that is really starting to pay dividends.