Cleveland Browns: How Brandon Weeden Can Win the Starting Job at Training Camp

Shaun Church@@NFLChurchContributor IJuly 23, 2012

Cleveland Browns: How Brandon Weeden Can Win the Starting Job at Training Camp

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    The Cleveland Browns will ultimately decide if Brandon Weeden is ready to start games early on, but he can win the starting job out of training camp, and there are four reasons why he can do it.

    First, though, it must be said that the incumbent, Colt McCoy, is the perfect quarterback for the West Coast offense. He lacks size, but he has the short-game accuracy and mobility needed to run it successfully.

    The starter’s main focus while running this version of the offense would be to turn and hand the ball off to future superstar running back Trent Richardson. After that it would be to work the play-action passing game with short, accurate throws with the occasional play over the top.

    That is McCoy’s game, yes.

    But when the Browns chose Weeden with the No. 22 overall pick during last April's NFL draft, they were telling the world the offense is changing.

    Find out how Brandon Weeden can become the Browns starting quarterback out of camp by following this slideshow.

The Go-Route

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    As stated in the intro, Cleveland told everyone with the Brandon Weeden pick that the offense is changing.

    No longer will the dink-and-dunk passes suffice.

    Getting the ball downfield will be more of a focal point for the new offense, and one of Weeden’s strengths is that he’s got a cannon attached to his right shoulder. He was, after all, a second-round pick by the New York Yankees in 2002 because of his 90-plus mph fastball.

    Wide receiver Greg Little provides a big target for Weeden, but he also possesses adequate top-end speed.

    On Cleveland’s longest play from scrimmage last season,—an ad-libbed route that created a 76-yard touchdown pass from Seneca Wallace—Little brandished the ability to separate from a defender despite his large frame.

    And with the Browns’ latest addition to the garage, 6’3”, 220-pound receiver Josh Gordon, the offense could finally begin to resemble an NFL unit.

    Gordon is also a good deep threat. He ran a 4.52 40-yard dash at his pro day workout (h/t Adam Caplan, and averaged 17.0 yards per catch during his last season at Baylor.

    Part of Weeden winning the starting job will be to showcase his arm strength during practice. That’s an easy one.

Leadership Through Adversity

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    This will be hard to show at camp and throughout meaningless preseason games, but still it needs to be part of the reasoning.

    Though there likely won’t be much adversity to deal with, his leadership will be apparent nonetheless.

    Following a double-overtime upset loss to Iowa State last season, Weeden—whose Heisman hopes were dashed with the defeat—could have acted like your average college-age kid and hidden from the embarrassment.

    But he was not an average college-age kid.

    Instead, Weeden, 28, helped his Oklahoma State Cowboys teammates deal with the crushing blow to their season by speaking to them in a calm demeanor.

    From Tom Spousta of the New York Times:

    “His maturity really showed,” offensive lineman Grant Garner said. “You definitely knew he was upset, but you wouldn’t have known that we just lost and he personally lost a lot more than anybody else, losing the Heisman. He’s what keeps everything steady. We take comfort in that he doesn’t get too high or too low and everybody can just look to him for leadership.”

    It is times like that through which a leader shines.

    Adversity is something all too familiar for the Browns organization and its fans. Weeden’s age and experience can help Cleveland overcome the troubles that lie ahead.

    He’s been there. He’s done that.

Courage in the Pocket

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    Courage in the pocket—not simply pocket presence—against some of the meanest defenses is a large component in being a successful NFL quarterback.

    It takes a certain amount of intestinal fortitude to stand in a collapsing pocket with as many as six to eight fierce pass-rushers with bad attitudes and a hatred for quarterbacks barreling down your backside.

    One thing you’ll notice from the AFC North’s three other starting quarterbacks is, not only do they know where to be within the pocket, but they hang in there until the last possible second before firing passes.

    Weeden steps up in the pocket well and can move laterally while keeping his eyes down the field. That shows good pocket presence, and that’s what teams want from a quarterback.

    But his knack for delivering a strong throw with a defender in his face—pocket courage—is what teams need from a quarterback. Without it, all a team is left with is David Carr.

    And that’s never a good thing.

The Brett Favre Affect

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    Yes, “affect,” not “effect.”

    Brett Favre’s affect on former head coach and current Browns team president Mike Holmgren was such that it caused him to draft Brandon Weeden.

    How is that, you ask?

    Favre was notorious for fearlessly making throws into tight coverage when he otherwise likely should not have.

    This is also called a “gunslinger mentality.”

    Weeden possesses this mentality to the same degree as Favre, and though it can—and has—cost his team a chance at victory, it is that which will ultimately lead him to the starting quarterback job in Cleveland.

    Throwing interceptions is never a good thing, but releasing the ball on time—regardless of the outcome—is better than holding onto it too long.

    Colt McCoy’s continuous hesitation in the passing game is a reason he was unable to finish the 2011 season.

    On the play in which Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison mauled McCoy, causing him to leave the field concussed, Greg Little had run a deep curl route. He was open enough for McCoy to deliver the pass, and the quarterback even looked at him.

    But instead he hesitated, scrambled away from the pressure being applied by defensive end Brett Keisel and the rest is history.

    That slight uncertainty can be more to the team’s—and to the quarterback’s own—detriment than throwing an interception, because while hesitating even for a second can leave you being helped off the field by teammates, that INT rarely will.

    Unless the intercepting defense is that of the New Orleans Saints, of course. Poor Kurt Warner.