Browns QB Weeden growing in confidence
By TOM WITHERS
The Associated Press | August 24,2012
Cleveland Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden is coming off his best practice and appears ready for the regular season.
CLEVELAND — With every snap, every practice, every pass, Brandon Weeden senses his confidence grow.
That’s a major step for Cleveland’s rocket-armed rookie quarterback, who acknowledged that the first few days of training camp this summer left him dizzy.
“When I came in and we were calling plays, my head was spinning so fast I couldn’t even see what was going on in front of me,” he said.
Weeden is focused now. And, on target.
The 28-year-old closed camp on Wednesday with perhaps his best practice as a pro. Stepping into his throws with power, Weeden displayed a surgeon’s precision as he zipped completions all over the field as the Browns (No. 30 in the AP Pro32) focused their workout on red-zone scoring. He hit his receivers in stride and showed deft touch on underneath routes, swing passes and screens.
Afterward, Weeden, his own biggest critic, felt he had done OK.
“I think I had a pretty good day, but as I tell you guys all the time I haven’t seen the tape,” he said. “It’s never as good or never as bad as you think it is. But overall I think it was my best day of camp — without seeing the tape. ... I’m not where I need to be but I’m making steps in the right direction.”
Browns coach Pat Shurmur thought his starting QB made more strides.
“He made some very good throws,” Shurmur said.
This was the Weeden the Browns have been waiting to see. This was the guy they were counting on when they traded up in April’s draft to take him with the No. 22 overall selection — much earlier than many experts thought the Oklahoma State standout and former minor league pitcher expected.
Weeden is blooming at just the right time.
Following a rough debut in Cleveland’s exhibition opener at Detroit, Weeden bounced back last week with a strong performance in a win at Green Bay. Playing the entire first half, Weeden completed 12 of 20 passes for 118 yards. He was in rhythm, got rid of the ball quickly and didn’t force any throws.
Not that Weeden needed to validate his selection as Cleveland’s starter over Colt McCoy, but the outing certainly eased any nerves the Browns may have been feeling as they prepare for a rugged regular-season schedule.
Weeden is hoping to build off last week’s game on Friday night, when the Browns host the Philadelphia Eagles (No. 8, AP Pro32), who in a scheduling quirk, will return to Cleveland on Sept. 9 for the season opener. By then, Eagles quarterback Michael Vick’s bruised ribs should be healed, though the Browns can keep their fingers crossed.
Weeden expects the Eagles’ defense to show little of what they’ll have in store for him in less than three weeks.
“I would have to imagine it’s going to be pretty vanilla this first time out,” he said. “Why would they come in and show us their blitzes and doing other things? I don’t know, but I’m going to plan like they are going to blitz and do all the things they do and then just take what they give me. But I have to say it will be a little different Week 1 than what it will be Friday night.”
Coming into camp, one of the big questions about Weeden was whether he could play under center. In college, he almost exclusively threw from the shotgun formation so there were those who wondered if he would be able to make the adjustment. Weeden, however, has proved to be a quick learner and he’s also been able to digest Cleveland’s playbook.
Weeden said Shurmur, offensive coordinator Brad Childress and quarterbacks coach Mark Whipple have praised his ability to handle a heavy workload.
“(They) all tell me the same thing, `Brandon, we’re throwing the kitchen sink at you. We are throwing so much at you. You got to keep continuing to learn.’ That’s the positive,” Weeden said. “I’ve got the entire playbook at my fingertips. I have run almost every play that we have in the playbook. Now, we can just fine tune it week by week. You have a game plan and you know what you’re going to run. It becomes easier. I feel comfortable now that everything is in and the way everything is rolling.”
At Oklahoma State, Weeden had Justin Blackmon as his primary target. They rewrote the school’s record books together.
While the Browns don’t have anyone on their roster of Blackmon’s caliber, Weeden has been developing chemistry with all of his receivers, including Josh Gordon, selected by the Browns in July’s supplemental draft.
Weeden has seen Gordon improve dramatically in a short period.
“Look at him a month ago to where he is today,” Weeden said. “It doesn’t even look like the same player. He’s finishing plays. He’s running at full speed. He’s come a long way. You’ve got to remember he didn’t have any OTAs like the other guys. We’ve got so many weapons at our disposal but it takes time, and it takes reps and it takes confidence.
“They have to have confidence running the routes, most importantly, and I have to have confidence pulling the trigger.”
Notes: Browns DE Frostee Rucker expects to make his preseason debut on Friday. He missed practice time with an injured right knee. ... LB Scott Fujita, still facing a three-game suspension for his role in the Saints’ bounty scandal, wore a left knee brace as he rode a stationary bike on Wednesday. ... The Browns held a walk-through on Thursday that was closed to the media. ... With Vick out, rookie Nick Foles will start at QB for the Eagles. Coach Andy Reid said his starters will play “for a quarter or so and we’ll see how it works out.”