By Nate Ulrich
Beacon Journal sports writer
BEREA: Browns starting quarterback Brandon Weeden doesn’t think his team’s preseason clunker against the Indianapolis Colts is a reason to become overly alarmed.
The first-team offense scored only three points in eight possessions, went 3-of-10 on third downs and the Browns fell 27-6 in their “dress rehearsal” exhibition game Saturday night. Weeden completed his first six passes, but he finished just 12-of-25 (48 percent) for 105 yards and posted a passer rating of 59.6.
“I don’t think there is any reason to push the panic button like a lot of people want to, but we’ve got to learn from it and we’ve got to get better,” Weeden said Monday before practice. “We’ve got to take the things that we didn’t do very well and correct them and get better come Thursday and moving forward when we play Miami.”
Weeden actually thinks the wake-up call came at the perfect time for a starting offense that cruised to success in the first two exhibition games. The starters outscored the St. Louis Rams 17-0 and the Detroit Lions 17-3 en route to preseason wins. Through those two games, Weeden completed 18-of-25 passes (72 percent) for 229 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions and a rating of 139.8.
But the starters were humbled by the Colts and outscored 17-3. Weeden and Co. were reminded that they need a sense of urgency while preparing for the Sept. 8 regular-season opener against the Miami Dolphins.
“I think sometimes you need that,” Weeden said. “I think you need a little slap in the face to say, ‘Listen, you’ve got to keep continuing to grind.’ It’s just human nature to get a little ahead of yourself. But what better timing? It doesn’t count toward the win-loss record of the regular season. We can correct all the mistakes we made.
“So we knew it’s not going to be perfect all the time. It’s impossible to play 20 games throughout the [preseason and] regular-season, perfect games. It’s just not going to happen. We had been pretty good in the first two games. Now it’s just how do we deal with that adversity? How do we move on? It’ll be a big step for us.”
Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said Sunday he would prepare his starters as if they’ll play Thursday night in the preseason finale against the Chicago Bears, but he hasn’t made a final decision.
Weeden made it clear he’s in favor of the idea.
“I’m a creature of habit, so I like as many reps as I can get as possible,” Weeden said. “I feel good with where I’m at. I feel comfortable within the offense as far as the preparation leading up to it. Whatever he wants to do. I feel good, but I wouldn’t mind playing two series if that’s the direction he wants to go.”
Chudzinski said he would weigh the risk of injury against giving young players valuable reps as they continue to learn a new system.
He also said he might not want his starters to have 14 days with no live action between their game against the Colts and their Week 1 showdown against the Dolphins.
“It’s always scary because of freak injuries like that,” Weeden said. “There’s been a bunch. It seems like even more than normal.
“Obviously that’s probably the reason you don’t play guys in the fourth [preseason] game, but we’ll see. Whatever [Chudzinski] wants to do, I know I’m all for it.”
During his meeting with reporters, Weeden exuded confidence in the offense’s ability to shine when it counts. He explained that the Colts covered the receivers well and the Browns made mistakes on their own that prevented momentum.
Weeden threw two would-be interceptions that Colts defenders dropped, but he’s not buying the criticism he has received for staring down his receivers. Former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar, WKYC’s preseason analyst, is among those who have identified the issue.
“It’s overrated because last time I checked you have to look at who you’re throwing to,” Weeden said. “The Brett Favre commercial is all good and fun, but you can’t do this [simulates a no-look pass] and complete balls. Most times you’re working half the field anyway. If you can see I’m staring down receivers from up there or wherever they are, you have to look where you’re throwing. You have to be smart on certain routes and move safeties and do all those things. But I have to look where I’m throwing. I’m not that good yet.”
Kosar also pointed out that the Browns receivers were not getting enough separation from the Colts’ coverage. Chudzinski made the same observation.
Wide receiver Greg Little, though, downplayed the concern.
“It’s all speculation when you see the game on film and you don’t know necessarily the concept of the play or what the quarterback or receiver was thinking in that certain situation,” Little said. … “Sometimes when it doesn’t seem like we are open, we’re open. And if a guy is right beside you, you’re typically open. The more we get on the same page and [Weeden] knows what to expect in certain situations, that’s when we start to [make headway].”
Added Weeden: “My confidence in our receivers is through the roof. They played hard. It wasn’t a lack of effort. … It’s not the receivers. It’s not the tight ends. It’s not the offensive line. It’s all-around. We’ve got to play better. The one-on-one matchups and things like that, we’ve got to win, and it’s my job to find those and throw the ball accurately.”
Weeden believes all of those factors can still fall into place for the Browns despite their collapse against the Colts.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/browns.abj.