How Brandon Weeden Can Become the Best Sophomore QB in 2013

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How Brandon Weeden Can Become the Best Sophomore QB in 2013
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If you thought after reading the title of the article that you were somehow going to be mesmerized into thinking 2012 wasn't a bad year for Cleveland Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden, you're most certainly going to be disappointed. 

There ain't no putting lipstick on a pig here. It was a bad year for Weeden by any metric out there. According to Pro Football Focus, Brandon Weeden was the No. 27 ranked quarterback in the NFL last season among quarterbacks who played at least 50 percent of their teams snaps. That statistic put him dead last. 

Before we get too much into Weeden's play as a rookie, let's take a quick look at a few of the things being said about Brandon Weeden leading up the 2012 draft, via NFL.com

He ball zips off his arm, and he has the ability to fit it in any tight space…he has that gunslinger mentality to go for the deep ball when it's an option. He understands route progressions and throwing the ball to allow his receiver to make a play.

Weeden was selected with the No. 22 overall selection in the first round by the Cleveland Browns. He was seen out of college as a quarterback with all of the physical tools needed to be a great football player.

But his age was a concern because of his decision to pursue professional baseball right out of high school. Weeden took five years out of his life traveling throughout the minor leagues before going to Oklahoma State and then ultimately entering the NFL at 28 years old. 

Once Brandon Weeden got to the NFL, he was tutored by head coach Pat Shurmur, who has since taken over the Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator duties after serving as the Cleveland Browns head coach for two seasons. 

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

 

Shurmur was known for his quick passing attack that relied on getting the ball out of the quarterback's hand quickly and on time. This wasn't a perfect marriage with Weeden from the very beginning.

Weeden was more along the lines of the kid in the neighborhood chucking it deep with the Nerf ball rather than the kid trying to dink and dunk you up and down the field all day. He needed a vertical passing attack with deep drops from under center or in the shotgun formation to be most effective. 

Weeden led the NFL in passes batted down at the line of scrimmage last season with 21, which is an area that should see improvement with a new offensive system under new head coach Rob Chudzinski. Mary Kay Cabot of The Plain Dealer believes that a new offensive system will help Weeden keep his passes from being batted down next season, via Cleveland.com 

Some of it had to do with all the short, three-step drops, and some of it with him not releasing the ball quickly enough. The new vertical scheme will feature more five- and seven-step drops, and the coaches have been working with Weeden on his footwork and speeding up his release.

The Browns are going to have a new identity on offense because they brought in a coaching staff who has a history of getting the most out of the quarterback position. The same guy who made Derek Anderson a Pro Bowl quarterback a few years back—that's Chudzinski—is now working with Weeden.

There's no reason to believe Weeden doesn't possess the talent that Anderson had when he was at the top of his game under Chudzinski, and an argument can actually be made that Weeden is even more talented. 

The Browns also brought over Norv Turner this offseason as offensive coordinator. Turner had spent the past six seasons as head coach of the San Diego Chargers. In four of Turner's six seasons in San Diego, the Chargers ranked among the top seven highest scoring offenses in the NFL.

The other two seasons they finished 11th and 16th, respectively. That's not a bad resume for a coach who's worked and developed quarterbacks the likes of Philip Rivers and Troy Aikman, whom he was a part of two Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl Championship teams with in the early '90s. 

The Browns are hoping Chudzinski and Turner can repeat their past successes in developing young quarterbacks, but this time with Weeden in Cleveland. There are some people out there who believe that Weeden is poised for a good second season, via NFL.com.

Moving from Pat Shurmur's paint-by-numbers West Coast offense to Turner's aggressive downfield passing attack should help. Weeden is more of a gunslinger-type passer, and new Browns coach Rob Chudzinski has promised to make the most of his quarterback's deep-ball ability. 

Weeden showed flashes last season of his ability to push the ball down the field vertically through the air. It's these plays that give Browns fans hope that the new coaching staff will be able to maximize these plays and get a more consistent production level from their not-so-young second-year quarterback. 

Below are three plays from Weeden's last season, which show his ability to push the ball down the field and make plays for the Browns offense. 

 

In this first play you'll notice Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon—who's lined up in the slot and is highlighted—will run a go route after releasing to the inside of the defender. The middle linebacker will attempt to cover Gordon down the field with safety help over the top. 

 

Weeden reads the middle linebacker running down the field in coverage on Gordon and knows his receiver will begin to slightly angle back towards the near hash, thus running away from the safety highlighted at the top of the screen. 

 

Weeden throws a great ball over the top of the defenders and takes advantage of the safety being late to help over the top. He also made the correct read for the specific defense the Giants called on that specific play. Finding the middle linebacker attempting to run down the field with your top wide receiver is the direction you're going to want to look. 

 

And just like most quarterbacks with an ability to push the ball well vertically, Weeden perfectly leads his receiver to allow for yards after catch—and in some cases like this one, a touchdown. 

In this next play, you're going to see Weeden thread the needle between the cornerback and safety. It's the same game as the play above, and once again, it's a touchdown pass to Gordon. 

 

Gordon gets an inside release on the cornerback, and Weeden reads this route the entire way. 

 

Weeden's quick release and timing on this vertical route in the red zone made the difference between a touchdown and a pick-six interception return for a touchdown. 

 

There wasn't a lot of room for error on this throw. 

On this last play, you'll see another vertical route from Weeden, but it'll also show you his ability to see routes develop and anticipate throws before they're actually there. 

 

 Weeden does a fantastic job of reading the body positioning of the defensive back who's highlighted. 

 

As you can see, the ball has already come out, and Weeden has made up his mind on where he's throwing the football. But at this point, is anyone open? Or even close to open? Maybe on a quick slant if the ball is headed out, but that defender looks primed to try and hop an underneath route.

It's possible this was even an option route for the receiver and quarterback. You can see the receiver looking directly at the defensive back as he's coming across the field. He can see the defender is completely exposed to anything going behind him and across the field.

That's where they take advantage, and both of the players are on the same page. Maybe the receiver just sits in the middle if the defender is playing back, but the good news for Browns fans on this play is that he wasn't. Weeden read the play well and delivered an accurate throw down the field. 

 

As you can see in this picture, the ball is already out and on its way. The defender has lost ground that he previously had in the picture above.

And to make matters worse, the receiver is running at full speed while the defender is still trying to get to his top speed. The defender had to re-direct his entire momentum when the receiver crossed his face, and that's where the problem occurred. 

 

By the time the ball gets deep down the field to the receiver, he's created enough room that it's an easy catch for a touchdown. The pass was perfectly placed for the receiver to go out and get it without having to break stride.

This play is a great example of Weeden slowing the game down and understanding how things develop down the field. He anticipated where his receiver was going to be and quickly diagnosed how the body positioning of the defender had left him vulnerable to that pass over the top. 

There haven't been a shortage of analysts who have hopped on the Brandon Weeden-improvement bus this offseason. Bucky Brooks of NFL.com had some very strong words for the Browns second-year signal-caller. 

Factor in the invaluable experience gained from Weeden's 15-game stint as a rookie starter -- he missed the season finale with a sprained right shoulder -- and the second-year man will not only thrive in a system conducive to his talents, but he will silence the critics questioning his potential as a franchise quarterback.

After throwing for 3,385 yards as a rookie in 2012, will Weeden throw for more than 3,800 yards in 2013?

Submit Vote vote to see results

 

It continued with ESPN's Ron Jaworski saying good things about his film breakdown of Weeden and what he expects to see from him next season, via Evan Silva at Rotoworld

There's no question in my mind that his throwing skill set and Turner's quarterback-friendly system will mesh effectively.

While it's going to be an uphill battle for Weeden to surpass his 2012 quarterback draft classmates next season, with the experience and resumes the new coaching staff possesses, there's no reason to believe he won't improve significantly.

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