Weeden under pressure
The Cleveland Browns are in desperate need of quarterback for the future. They invested a first-round pick in Brandon Weeden, and are now hoping he'll have more success than Colt McCoy at the position.
Here's a look at how his season has gone through four games.
Weeden is physically and mentally tough which is critical for any NFL quarterback. The NFL is big-boy football and Weeden has been pounded play after play. Despite this, he picks himself up and takes another snap while we have seen other rookie QBs complaining about the hits.
He also does not get rattled after making a mistake. After the pick-six against the Ravens, he came back strong with accurate throws.
Weeden has an exceptionally strong arm. Twice in the first half against the Ravens he was hit in the stomach in the middle of his delivery. The ball still got to the receiver, a good indicator of his arm strength.
Weeden has decent accuracy and touch. He throws a catchable long ball, but fans would not know that because of all the drops.
Weeden’s throwing motion is tight and he gets a good spiral on the ball that has not changed from his days at Oklahoma State.
Weeden’s footwork is better than it was early in the preseason but he still has some ways to go. He is way more comfortable in the shotgun, but that does not fit Pat Shurmur’s offense.
Weeden’s three-step drop is okay but he is not usually ready to deliver the ball on time in that drop. That is a problem because often he runs out of time being that close to the line.
Weeden’s five- and seven-step drops are less controlled and are inconsistent. His lack of confidence in the line is a big factor. The inconsistent footwork affects accuracy, and when he fails to set his feet, the medium and long passes are off-target.
Weeden is not reading the pre-snap coverage. He does not seem to recognize a CB eight yards off the WR with no safety help over the top. That is a one-on-one opportunity for a big play.
Like a lot of new NFL quarterbacks, Weeden too often stares down his WR. When you stare down the WR, it draws a crowd. Weeden does not have confidence in the line for good reason, but as a result of that, he has developed some bad habits. Even when the protection holds up, he doesn’t use the time to read his progressions.
He also has too many predefined throws. That works on the quick slant, but is dangerous on longer passes. These are caused by an inconsistent ability to read the coverage and his lack of confidence in both his line and WRs.
Both of these issues are a function of Weeden not trusting his offensive line. He feels pressure even when it is not on him, but that is because he usually has pressure on longer drops. He is not very effective at evading pressure either. He likes to move to his right because he is right-handed, but that is a problem because the right side of the line is unstable.
Weeden has a tendency to hold the ball too long. Part of that comes from him hesitating when trying to make reads. It is also the result of WRs failing to get open, as they do not make sharp cuts and get covered more closely than they should. Because he does not trust the WRs to get open, he waits until he sees them open. Often that is too late and the pass is defended or worse.
On deeper drops, he often does not see open receivers. He had excellent vision of the field in college, but has lost that. In the Ravens game, he had Greg Little wide open 20 yards downfield but did not see it. He threw to Richardson, who got the first down, but yet another big-play opportunity was lost.
Weeden tends to go to the checkdown right away when he sees the blitz coming. This makes the Browns vulnerable to blitzes on a large percentage of 3rd-and-long situations.
First of all, there is the lack of field position. Against the Ravens, the first eight possessions began on or inside the Browns’ 20-yard line. That is because the special teams have not been able to generate positive field position with returns and the Browns’ punts have been short way too often.
Second, there have been more drops by Browns receivers than for any other team since the start of 2011. Even when Weeden puts the ball on the wideout's hands, it usually falls to the ground or into the hands of a defender.
Little is supposed to be the Browns’ No. 1 receiver, but he is the leading culprit. Mohamed Massaquoi has shown some development, but is as fragile as fine china. Josh Gordon was a second-round pick in the supplemental draft, but he has yet to develop and has been a non-factor so far. The veteran Josh Cribbs has never learned to run a pattern. If the Browns can get him the ball in space, he can be effective, but he cannot get open—particularly against press coverage.
The lack of offensive imagination hurts Weeden as well. The drops plus the ineffectiveness of the O-line allows the defense to ignore the pass and put eight guys in the box. That leads to a lot of 3rd-and-long situations.
I think Weeden has a chance to become a franchise QB, but we need to see a lot more of his work and development before we will know for sure. A veteran WR would help him a lot. Having his Oklahoma State buddy Josh Cooper would also help, but the brain trust did not see fit to keep him on the roster. Given the injuries to the current wideouts, it is hard to understand why Cooper is not promoted.
The coaching staff is not helping Weeden’s development either. The WRs are not getting better and the play-calling causes too many 3rd-and-long situations. Mike Holmgren, who is supposed to be a QB guru, has not been able to fix Weeden’s shortcomings either.
The fans hope Weeden is the guy. It would be a lot better if he were 22 rather than 29. Even if he works out, chances are he will be ending his career just as the Browns are ready to challenge for the Super Bowl. THAT is Browns luck in a nutshell.
That’s what I think. Tell us what you think.
Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color commentary on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He edits http://fryingpansports.com. He has also published several novels on http://www.eBooks-Library.com/Contemporary/ and a non-fiction work at http://www.merriam-press.com/.
Also listen to the best Sports Talk anywhere on the Internet and hear his sports show Monday-Thursday 6-7:30 PM EST on or http://mooheadradio.com/2.5/?page_id=21. You can catch any interviews you missed on http://fryingpansports.com/radio-show/.