Brandon Weeden won't be on the radar screen for rookie of the year but, he has a good chance to enter the conversation.
Yards Per Pass Attempt
So far through the preseason Weeden is averaging 6.2 yards per attempt. The team as a whole is averaging 8.0 per attempt which will most likely be more representative of Weeden’s regular season average.
The reason this statistic is so important to Brandon Weeden’s chance of being a rookie of the year candidate is yards per pass attempt directly correlates with winning. The site Advanced Football Stats has a formula for translating the YPA number into wins. Using the formula on the site with Tom Brady’s 2011 YPA it estimated 14 wins, and they won 13 games.
If you need more proof, an article on the NFL’s own website quotes coaches who agree that YPA equals wins. If the Browns' preseason YPA carried into the regular season, the formula says they would win 12 games.
If that happens, Brandon Weeden would definitely be a rookie of the year finalist.
The Power West Coast Offense
The Browns new offensive coordinator Brad Childress will add an emphasis to the power run game regardless of who the running back is on opening day. This will lead to a lot of man-to-man coverage which should allow for big plays in the passing game.
This factor comes down to two rookies, Travis Benjamin and Josh Gordon, to beat one-on-one coverage. The speedy Travis Benjamin will provide the opportunity for explosive 20-plus yard plays, while Gordon is a 15-yard completion waiting to happen. So far in the preseason, Benjamin is much closer to being ready for the task than Gordon who has a case of camp legs.
Weeden Looks for the Deep Ball First
In practice and the preseason games, Brandon Weeden has shown he looks for the deep route in the progression first. In practice he gets more of these throws off because he can’t be sacked.
In the preseason games, to the naked eye, it looks like Weeden is struggling to find the next receiver in the progression, but in fact he wants the deep route in the progression.
The big difference in the game is he can be sacked or pressured. This pressure has led to some throwaways and an interception. This is where Weeden has the most room for improvement. In practice after the preseason games, from my observation, the coaches have been working on this with him.
Another thing that will help is a full complement of healthy players, with Travis Benjamin getting back after missing the last preseason game and Gordon getting back in shape from not playing football for a year.
Youth Could Stop the Rookie of the Year Campaign
The biggest factor working against Weeden and the Browns is that the key players on offense are rookies. The Browns could begin the season with four rookies as starters with Trent Richardson, Brandon Weeden, Mitchell Schwartz, and Josh Gordon.
The two big-play receivers are both rookies in Gordon and Benjamin. While Greg Little and the tight ends will help, the explosive plays (20-plus yard plays) will come from rookies.
It’s uncommon for this much youth to come together so quickly, but if it does, you could see Brandon Weeden holding up the rookie of the year trophy.