weeden-story

Fresh Eyes on Brandon Weeden

The second-year Browns QB knows he’s got to win over the new regime to remain the starter

By
Jenny Vrentas
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BEREA, Ohio — Brandon Weeden lingered on the practice field well after 6 p.m., when the Browns’ evening training camp practice ended. The second-year quarterback was joined by receiver Greg Little and tight end Jordan Cameron, who alternated running routes for him. “Let’s do one more,” Weeden called out. Little ran a deep fade pattern, and Weeden lofted a beautiful pass, hitting his target in stride. Then they tried a few more.

Weeden, the 22nd pick in the 2012 draft, is doing everything he can to prove he’s the guy in Cleveland and should be for years to come. But is it enough?

Weeden started 15 games last season and has taken all the reps with the first-team offense through the offseason and first week of training camp, but coach Rob Chudzinski has yet to name a starter. With five weeks until the season opener, the organization doesn’t seem more sold on Weeden than back in the spring, when the members of the new Browns regime—including Chudzinski, CEO Joe Banner and general manager Michael Lombardi—were sizing up a player they did not draft.

Weeden, aware of the internal and external pressures on him, is committed to having “tunnel vision.” He’s blocking out the speculation about his future in Cleveland, and whether or not he can lead the Browns’ offense. In that he’s relying on the blinders that came in handy when he was a minor-league baseball pitcher.

“Can’t listen to the radio, can’t listen to the TV, can’t read the newspaper,” Weeden, 29, said after a morning walk-through yesterday. “They didn’t draft me, but I think if I go out and play well, everything kind of takes care of itself.”

It’s still early in training camp, but Weeden exhibits some of the inconsistency of his rookie season, when his record as a starter was 5-10. One example: He fired a slant in a tight window to receiver Travis Benjamin, but then on a later play in team drills, overlooked at least one other open receiver to send an off-target pass to Benjamin in tight coverage. Many of Weeden’s passes were check-downs to running back Trent Richardson, but after one, new offensive coordinator Norv Turner cheered Weeden’s decision-making. Turner’s system thrives on a vertical passing game, but knowing when to check down is critical.

Weeden likes Turner’s new offense, which he says will put him in the shotgun more often and uses route concepts he’s familiar with from Oklahoma State. When the Browns hired Chudzinski and Turner, Weeden knew he’d have to speed up his footwork, so he spent three days in Sarasota, Fla., working with Chris Weinke, a fellow baseball player-turned-pro quarterback.

Weeden practiced his drops while stepping inside a horizontal ladder, or with a resistance band around his waist, to work on making his steps faster and his drops shorter. He and Weinke also worked on correcting Weeden’s custom of patting the football before making his throw. Weeden completed just 57.4% of his passes last season, and he thinks bad habits limited his accuracy, as well as making him prone to sacks (28) and fumbles (six).

“Year one to year two is the biggest year of your career,” Weeden says. “You can’t say you’re young, this is my first time seeing it, because it’s not. This is my time to show that I’ve gotten better, to show I’m the guy who can be the leader.”

Weeden’s personality is not to be fiery or vocal. As a pitcher he was on his own on the mound, but he says one reason he got burned out in five seasons in the minor leagues was the feeling that every player was out for himself. He believes he can lead an offense in a quieter way, preferring to pull his teammates aside and work with them one-on-one, like he was doing with Little and Cameron after practice.

Chudzinski credits Weeden for coming to the facility early each day, around 6 a.m., and wanting to improve. “You have new guys, and you want to impress them—you want them to think you’re the guy going forward,” Weeden says. The question is, how much better does he need to get to persuade those decision-makers who weren’t in place when he arrived? And at 29, how much better can he get?

BEDARD: Meet the new new new new new new thing in Cleveland

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9 comments
BrownieDog
BrownieDog

Parlor games can be fun. Endless "what-if's", speculation, supposition, what have you. Maybe maybe. Well, maybe Weeden would be a far better version of himself if he landed last year with a team that could have offered him stability and continuity and depth. Then again, maybe if we had got RG3...

"Maybe" gets really tiresome after a while. Pro football has enough inherent uncertainty in itself without adding extra X factors within the organization. It will be a pleasure for us fans when and if the Browns achieve some stability and continuity and depth, along with an infusion of talent and excellent leadership. As with all things built to last (businesses, academic institutions, governments) there is a LOT of irritating scrambling around early on.

With reference to Weeden, he entered a triple dose of chaos last year as a rookie. 1. Being a rookie is chaotic in and of itself. And he did not come to the Pros from a college program that prepared him very well for the Bigs. 2. The team was marginal at best with its owner, front office, coaching, and player talent. Many of us fans chaffed with a chaotic dysfunction, even though admittedly last year's team was actually in most games, unlike the lopsided disasters from before . 3. The new owner and regime (and rumor machine) was introduced at the worst possible moment... at the beginning of a new season, with all the awkward coexistence of old and new until the season concluded and the wrecking ball could swing.

And it may or may not be very significant that the new owner has had headline-grabbing legal nightmares for several months, hardly lending itself to stability.

Given the whole picture it is pleasantly surprising that many fans (and local/national media) have some strong hope for the Browns, in spite of a tough schedule in the AFC North and all the newness. We hope that Weeden will recover from whatever form of shellshock he has, and will use his strong arm and savvy to turn the corner, settle in, and become a winner.


garb
garb

You can put Peter King's football expertise in a thimble and still have room for a drink. King puts the cart before the horse. You must first analyze the Brown's new regime or brain trust before kicking Weeden to the curb. First, the Browns GM, Mike Lombardi, wouldn't know a real NFL football player if it hit him in the face. He is an NFL front office person because he is a lackey for Joe Banner. So, you can immediately discount Lombardi as an evaluator. Second, Joe Banner is a salary cap specialist who thinks he knows player personnel. Wrong. It's why Lurie, the Eagles owner, ran him out of Philadelphia. Banner was trying to usurp Andy Reid's power and Lurie knew who the real football guru was. So, you can discount Banner as a cutting edge draft specialist. Weeden has spent one year only in the NFL. And that was under an abysmal play calling coach named Shurmur with his West Coast offense where the longest passes from scrimmage were four yard slant plays. Weeden has the arm and the tools. It gets down to the two real experts on the Browns who will give him the thumbs up or thumbs down. And that would be their head coach, Rob Chudzinski and their offensive coordinator, Norv Turner. These are two people who do know football and will make a correct assumption on whether Weeden will cut the mustard as a bona fide NFL QB.

davey_dave32
davey_dave32

Choosing Weeden over Russel Wilson was a poor decision but even worse was jumping up to take Weeden in the first round. He would have fallen to the third round or lower. Until the Browns get a decent foundation they have to hit in the draft otherwise they will continue to overpay players like Kruger to join the team. Speaking of Kruger, will the additions of Kruger and Mingo be enough to take the Cleveland Defense from decent to outstanding? Yes, the secondary has holes but if opposing quarterbacks have no time to throw the ball, would it even matter. I was happy to see King tweet today that Mingo is the most impressive rookie he has seen thus far.

DD
DD

The search is over.  For many years I have been looking for the word speed used in the same sentence as Chris Weinke and there it was.  Next year Weeden and Weinke can join forces to teach others how to develop the speed and accuracy both were known for as pro's.

gary41
gary41

Very disappointing article, providing no information above general knowledge.  At training camp, under relatively easy practice conditions, you have to leave with an idea the QB is satisfactory or not, based on performance.  It is not a question of maybe.  He can make all the throws of known routes or he cannot at least 70% & preferably 80% of the time.  His mechanics & other things are important.  He is being evaluated by coaches and others, but this author has no clue.  Learn the business and get off the fence.      

pamperofirpo
pamperofirpo

A wasted draft pick. Weeden will never be more than a journeyman QB in the NFL. Once again, the Browns shoot themselves in the foot.

MarkWallace
MarkWallace

Weeden is a winner. I guess the brain trust in Cleveland still can't recognize what a winner looks like.

David50
David50

I can't see the Browns being any good any time soon.

New coach same story.

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