It’s been 10 games now since Brandon Weeden of the Browns took his first snap as a National Football League quarterback. And by now, you would expect to see some improvement.
That, however, has not been the case.
He’s not the worst quarterback in the NFL by any stretch, but he has failed to show any consistency. Every now and then, he’ll nail a difficult pass, but those moments are outweighed by some throws that make you wince, like the fourth-down fade to Jordan Cameron from the Dallas 1-yard line that sailed out of the end zone.
What you look for in a rookie quarterback is improvement not just from game to game, but from series to series, from snap to snap. Correcting mistakes is paramount in the development of an NFL quarterback.
Weeden, who seems like an intelligent sort, says he’s learning from his mistakes, but judging from his progress thus far, he seems to be a very slow learner.
There is no question he has the arm and can play the game from that standpoint. But some of his decisions are head-scratchers and not even a bazooka arm can overcome them.
Weeden, it seems, has trouble playing the game from the neck up. The game has not seemed to slow down for him. Only the three-step drop and pop plays have been his bread and butter.
His problems arise when asked to take five- or seven-step drops. He seems to take much more time getting rid of the ball. The rhythm of the larger drops, especially from the pro set, is lost on him.
In Sunday’s overtime loss to the Dallas Cowboys, Weeden received near-pristine protection from his offensive line all afternoon. At various times, he had as much as seven or eight seconds to unload the ball, but either failed and took a sack or threw the ball away.
Now the Dallas secondary doesn’t exactly boast a bunch of All-Pros, but Weeden and his receivers failed to take advantage. Maybe he was pumped to play in front of friends and family. Many of his throws were high and behind his targets.
His best throws, of course, were the two skinny posts to Ben Watson that wound up in the Dallas end zone. But he missed several wide open receivers and most of the afternoon either held on to the ball to long or delivered the ball late.
You’d expect to see more than a glimpse or two a game that would lead you to believe progress in Weeden’s most important product. He needs to step up and not just take charge of the huddle, but start making plays, especially in the red zone.
What works against Weeden is his age. He’s 29-years-old and the clock is more an enemy than a friend. If he was, say, 22 or 23, a more cautious call for patience would be exercised.
It has reached the point where he must step up in the final six games of the season and put his vast talents on display. He can’t hold back. He must develop a confidence in his abilities and show the people who count that the Browns didn’t make a mistake in drafting him so high.
He needs to come out strong in those six games and prove that yes, he can learn from his mistakes and develop more consistency because if he doesn’t, the quarterback carousel in Cleveland might spin again.
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For a while there, it appeared as though the Browns had finally learned that penalties were to be avoided. It was bad enough they lacked the overall talent to win a lot of games. Penalties only added to the struggle.
So when Ed Hochuli and his crew nailed the Browns for 12 penalties and 129 yards Sunday, the red flag was unfurled again. A dozen penalties, all but two of the aggressive type, proved to be the Cowboys’ best friend. A whopping 10 of their first downs came following yellow laundry.
It became embarrassing for Buster Skrine, filling in for the injured Joe Haden. Skrine tried valiantly, but had no chance against a much larger Dez Bryant and drew three penalties in a vain attempt to slow him down. A concussion took him mercifully out of the game.
Suffice it to say if Haden had played, Dallas quarterback Tony Romo would have picked on Sheldon Brown more. As it was, Brown was the ultimate victim on the 35-yard pass interference call that moved the Cowboys into position for what turned out to be a game-tying field goal with just seconds left in regulation.
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One of these days, the Browns are finally going to discover the secret to locking down victories. For some reason, they seem to let up and play more passively on both sides of the ball with a lead, especially in the fourth quarter.
The best way to prevent other teams from catching up is to not deviate from a game plan that got you the lead in the first place. There’s no such thing as leading by too many points. Boot to the throat. Repeat.
With only a minute left in regulation and down by three points Sunday, the Cowboys moved into position for the three-pointer with ridiculous ease. That’s because the Browns failed to make a play. No one stepped up and said, “Uh, uh. Not this time.” That’s what leadership does. And right now, the Browns don’t have such a leader.
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Notebook: Weeden didn’t throw any interceptions against the Cowboys, but got real lucky when linebacker Anthony Spencer and nose tackle Josh Brent dropped easy picks. If Brent makes his at the Cleveland 10-yard line on the first play of the Browns’ first series in the fourth quarter, he scores easily and there would have been no overtime. . . . Credit quicker developing plays as the reason the Cowboys were much more successful passing in the second half. Romo took too long to deliver the ball in the first 30 minutes and made the correction at the half. The Browns failed to adjust to the new strategy. . . . With the return to health of Phil Taylor and Ahtyba Rubin, it has become obvious interior of the Cleveland defensive line is now considered a strength. Now all defensive coordinator Dick Jauron has to do is move rookie Billy Winn outside opposite Jabaal Sheard to fortify the pass rush from the outside.