ASHBURN, Va. (AP) — Colt McCoy knew exactly what his teammates needed to hear.
In the aftermath of a gut-wrenching two-point loss and the sickening season-ending injury to Alex Smith, McCoy stood up in the Washington Redskins locker room and addressed the group.
McCoy "told us we were in good hands," running back Chris Thompson said. "We had no doubt about that from the jump. We lost the game, but I will say Colt talking to us afterwards really had the dudes hyped up and we're ready to get to Dallas."
Washington signed Mark Sanchez on Monday to serve as the new backup, but this is McCoy's s how now after Smith broke his right tibia and fibula in gruesome fashion. McCoy will start Thursday when the Redskins visit the Dallas Cowboys in a Thanksgiving showdown that will go a long way to determining who wins the NFC East, and the 32-year-old has the full confidence of the coaching staff and players to take over for the rest of the season.
"I just feel very comfortable with Colt and always have," coach Jay Gruden said. "It's been a luxury to have him as a backup quarterback and now it's a great opportunity for him to take the reins. I know he's excited about it. He's a guy that knows the system, he's a competitor, accurate with the football, understands where to go with the football — we assume — but we'll see on Thursday."
Until Sunday, McCoy hadn't thrown a pass in a regular-season game since 2015. The Cowboys game will be his first start since 2014, the same season he beat Dallas on the road on Monday night.
That was ages ago in NFL time, but there's a reason McCoy has been on the roster since Gruden came to Washington. His knowledge of the offense was evident even to Houston Texans players when McCoy seamlessly took over for Smith.
"He's been here for years," Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph said. "He understands the offense well. There's been a point in time where they were talking about him being the starter. So it's good to have two guys that can come in. As soon as he came in the game, it was like they never dropped off from where they were."
Whether backing up Robert Griffin III, Kirk Cousins or Smith, McCoy has developed a reputation among teammates for being ready to play in a heartbeat. Center Chase Roullier said McCoy treats each day leading the scout team in practice as his Super Bowl, and no one has ever said the former University of Texas star was unprepared.
"Even last year when he didn't I think get a single snap all season, he prepared like he was the starter then," linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said. "To have that mentality and to be that consistent with that mentality really speaks volumes to him as a professional."
McCoy, who started for Cleveland and San Francisco earlier in his career, has only appeared in nine games over the past three-plus seasons with Washington. Practice is one thing, and McCoy realizes game action is a different animal.
"I've still got to knock a little bit of rust off and get ready on a short week," McCoy said after going 6 of 12 or 54 yards and a touchdown Sunday against Houston. "It's tough. It's not ideal. I think for me I've been here a little while. Haven't taking reps with these guys in three of four years, so I think there will be a little bit of a transition there but probably more for me than for them."
It's a tough turnaround for Sanchez, but Gruden said the Redskins signed him because of his NFL experience and familiarity with offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh and quarterbacks coach Kevin O'Donnell from his time with the New York Jets. Sanchez got the nod over Kellen Clemens, T.J. Yates, EJ Manuel and Josh Johnson after all five worked out at the team's facility Monday.
"He's won some playoff games, has got a lot of experience," Gruden said. "I think this time of the year you need somebody who's taken some meaningful snaps with a lot of experience, and Mark's done that."
NOTES: Gruden said Smith's surgery went well and expects the QB to make a full recovery in six to eight months. ... RB Chris Thompson, who has missed the past three games with injured ribs, said he's feeling "a whole lot better" and hopes to be a game-time decision. ... CB Quinton Dunbar (shin) and LT Trent Williams (thumb) are possibilities to return at Dallas.
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