Why Brandon Weeden's Struggles Will Result in More Cleveland Browns Losses
There is plenty of blame to pass around in the Cleveland Browns’ loss to the Detroit Lions on Sunday. Unfortunately for quarterback Brandon Weeden, the position he plays will always have to shoulder the most.
The criticisms of Weeden have been the same since the day he came into the league. The experts said he lacked field vision (stared down receivers), held the ball too long and then panicked under pressure. This is a deadly combination in the NFL.
The entire offseason was dedicated to offensive coordinator Norv Turner and head coach Rob Chudzinksi teaching Weeden to make quicker decisions and not hold the ball. It doesn’t seem to be working.
It is no coincidence that the Browns are 0-3 with Weeden as the starting quarterback. He is good enough to make plays periodically, but his old habits always resurface.
In this week’s game film breakdown, we examine three plays from Sunday’s loss that show each of his worst traits.
Play 1: 3rd-and-4 on the Lions 40-yard line with 8:51 left in the second quarter
On this play, the Browns are in a three-wide receiver set. His first option on this play is wide receiver Josh Gordon, who is at the bottom of the screen shot. He will run a slant route.
The Lions have one deep safety. Most of the receiver’s routes on this play are less than 15 yards. Once the ball is snapped, Weeden needs to read which side the safety will defend, and then he will know which side of the field to throw to.
The protection for Weeden is perfect on this play. Gordon has a step on his defender, and Weeden could have used his arm strength to deliver the ball for a first down. Instead, he holds on to the ball and looks for a bigger play with running back Chris Ogbonnaya taking on a linebacker on the near sideline.
The problem is, Weeden has stared at this side of the field since the snap. This allows the deep safety to break toward the outside route to help the linebacker.
Weeden is making multiple mistakes in this screen shot. Instead of feeling the pressure to his right and shifting to the left side of the pocket, he steps up into the pressure. He also forces a pass to Ogbonnaya down the near sideline, despite the safety having a head start to his route.
If Weeden had shifted to his left and took a peak at the other side of the field, he would have seen a wide-open Davone Bess on an out route right at the first-down marker. If he really wanted the big play, Greg Little has perfect inside position on his defender to throw the deep slant where there is no safety help.
This was a perfect illustration of Weeden’s lack of field vision and how he stares down receivers. Instead of going through his progressions and seeing two productive plays to the left side of the field, he stared at the right side of the field and still did not recognize double coverage. His throw resulted in an interception.
Play 2: 1st-and-10 at their own 34-yard line with 10:20 to go in the fourth quarter
On this play, the Browns were down just four points and had just picked up a first down. They are in a three-wide receiver set with tight end Jordan Cameron split off the end of the line as well.
The three wide receivers are running streak routes straight downfield and then will cut toward the sideline on the bottom of the screen shot.
Once again, Weeden has perfect protection. Cameron is running down the line of scrimmage on a shallow crossing route, while all the other receivers are crossing toward that sideline as well.
The Lions have man-to-man coverage on two receivers and zone coverage everywhere else. Knowing the routes, Weeden should see now that there will be nowhere to throw the football downfield and elects to dump off to Cameron in the flat.
Instead of taking a short gain, Weeden holds the ball until pressure comes. At this point, he panics and throws the ball away. This would normally be the correct decision, but instead of throwing to the sideline where every receiver was headed, he throws the ball away to the far sideline.
This is a perfect example of Weeden panicking under pressure. Holding the ball a little bit longer to try and make a play in this scenario isn’t even that bad, but he has to know where his receivers are once the pressure comes. He threw the ball to the sideline, out of bounds, where there was no one and received an intentional-grounding penalty.
Play 3: 1st-and-10 on their own 44-yard line with 4:44 left in the fourth quarter
This is the infamous interception. A lot of people forget that the Browns had a first down on this play and were driving into Lions’ territory only down seven points.
Weeden has three receivers to his right and one to his left. The receiver at the bottom of the screen shot will run a streak route which should clear out the defender and allow Ogbonnaya to be a safety valve in the flat in case there are no receivers open.
Just like the other two plays, Weeden has perfect protection. The Lions also have perfect coverage downfield, however. They have two deep safeties playing a zone, and every other receiver is covered man-to-man.
The proper decision here is for Weeden to dump the ball off to Ogbonnaya and let him take on the linebacker one-on-one. If he throws the ball at this very moment, the Browns would have gained at least four or five yards.
Once again, Weeden holds onto the ball and allows the pressure to chase him out of the pocket. While running backwards, Weeden tried to flip the ball to Ogbonnaya about two seconds later than he should have originally thrown the pass.
In this instance Weeden highlighted his tendency to hold onto the ball too long and then try and force the pass into a bad situation. Sometime you have to take four or five yards, especially on first down. Instead of taking a decent gain, he threw one of the worst interceptions in recent memory.
These three plays are perfect examples of Weeden’s bad traits. A quarterback who has poor field vision, panics under pressure and holds on to the ball too long is a recipe for disaster. All the team needed was for Weeden to not lose them the game Sunday. While he was not the only factor in the loss, he certainly didn’t help their cause either.
Game-film screen shot is courtesy of NFL Game Rewind (subscription required).
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