Breaking Down Brandon Weeden's Early Showings for Cleveland Browns
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He's doing exactly what he should, of course—making progress and improvements with every throw he makes. He also showed that with extended playing time, like he saw in the first half of last week's contest against the Green Bay Packers, he can get into a rhythm and look like he truly belongs on the field as a starting quarterback.
However, his inexperience as a pro has been very evident in his first two outings, mainly in the fact that he's staring down his first read and generally throwing that player's way.
Here are a few different looks of Weeden staring down his receivers, all of which had very different results.
This first series comes from the Browns' first preseason game against the Detroit Lions. Weeden played just 15 snaps in that game, and he looked pretty raw. This play in particular, in which Weeden was stripped of the ball in what was ultimately ruled a fumble, best illustrates the stare-down problem:
Immediately after the snap, Weeden immediately turns in the direction of his first read.
As you can see, he doesn't look elsewhere; he's locked in on his first read, and that's where he's going.
He thinks he can beat the pressure he knows is coming, but the Detroit defenders see exactly what Weeden is trying to do. Notice he's not trying to roll left and find another open receiver, so they key right in on him and his arm.
They thus get the sack and force the fumble.
Weeden looked better in Week 2 against the Green Bay Packers in the sense that he was able to get into a rhythm. His feet looked planted with greater certainty, and he worked out of the shotgun and tried to get his passes out quickly to avoid what happened against the Lions.
His dropbacks were deeper and his pocket awareness was noticeably better.
However, notice something familiar? Yes, he keeps staring down his first read and throwing only to him. There's no evidence that he's checking his progression and looking for the open man despite having a lot of time, thanks to the Browns' good offensive line.
As soon as he gets the ball, he cocks his arm to pass to the first man he's supposed to check. While this was generally successful against the Packers, as he was mainly throwing to short and intermediate depth, if he wants to go deep, he's going to have to read his entire crew of receivers to make the right throw.
At least, under pressure, Weeden sped up his delivery. While he had to throw the ball away, he was able to get it out before taking a sack.
So it's been a mixed bag for Weeden. On one hand, he's accurate and he's managed to quicken his pace while at the same time looking more confident standing tall in the pocket.
On the other, he's still staring down and almost exclusively throwing to his first read.
If that continues in the regular season, that's going to result in a lot of interceptions and tipped passes. Weeden needs to work on handling the speed of the game so that he can work through his receiving progression and make the proper decision on the fly. This is a skill that comes with practice, to be sure, but though we've seen a better Weeden from Weeks 1 to 2 of the preseason, he's still clearly a work in progress.
(h/t to John Beckler of NFL Draft Monsters for his help with photos)
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