By Nate Ulrich
Beacon Journal sports writer
BEREA: Brandon Weeden isn’t a new-age quarterback who possesses the mobility needed to run a read-option offense, but he believes there is still hope for his traditional drop-back style in today’s NFL.
If doubt ever creeps into Weeden’s mind, he simply needs to remind himself who won the Super Bowl last season. He’ll get a good look at that championship quarterback Sunday when the Browns (0-1) meet Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens (0-1) for an AFC North showdown at M&T Bank Stadium.
“I’m a big believer,” Weeden said Wednesday. “The zone read’s for a few guys in this league. They’re not going to ask [Denver Broncos quarterback] Peyton [Manning] or [New England Patriots quarterback] Tom [Brady] or any of those guys to do it. It just doesn’t fit their skill set, and even the guys who can run around have to stand in there, and they know that. Yeah, absolutely, [Flacco’s success] gives you confidence that this offense has a track record of being very successful.”
Like Weeden, Flacco has a cannon of an arm, but he’s not elusive enough to consistently operate trendy offenses like Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers, Robert Griffin III of the Washington Redskins, Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks and Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers.
“Neither one of us is the most fleet-of-foot guys, but if we need to get out of the pocket, we can make a throw,” Weeden said. “We can do that. I think there are some similarities there. [Flacco is] a big guy with a big arm. He extends the ball.
“And he’s got one thing that I don’t have — playoffs and all of those things. Yeah, he’s a good player, and if I can model my game after that, it would be a good one.”
Weeden has such a long way to go before any conversation about him following Flacco’s lead becomes realistic, and there’s obviously a chance he’ll never get there.
During the Browns’ 23-10 loss to the Miami Dolphins in the season opener, Weeden completed 26-of-53 passes for 289 yards and a touchdown with three interceptions, posting a pass rating of 48.4.
He didn’t receive much protection — the Dolphins had 16 quarterback hits, including six sacks — but he insisted Wednesday that he was feeling fine.
His receivers dropped a handful of passes — and the top playmaker in the group didn’t even play. Josh Gordon is suspended for the first two regular-season games because he violated the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.
But the bottom line is Weeden must improve drastically.
“Whether it’s hitting guys in stride and giving them a chance to run after the catch or whatever it may be, just little missed opportunities that we could’ve extended plays or done some things to put ourselves in better position, and we missed those opportunities,” Weeden said. “I’m hoping we can learn from the mistakes we made in the first week, the little stuff that we did to maybe extend those drives, and do the things we’ve been confident in. We just weren’t able to do them Week 1.”
Two of his three interceptions deflected off the hands of his targets, wide receiver Greg Little and tight end Jordan Cameron. Weeden wishes he would have taken some heat off those fastballs.
“Looking back, I would like to have taken a little bit off probably,” he said. “I want to make it as easy as possible for those guys to catch it. It doesn’t matter if you throw it hard or soft or whatever, as long as they catch it. That’s all we really care about. If they want me to take something off, whatever they want me to do, I’ll find a way to do it.”
Weeden also lamented the offense converting just 1-of-14 third downs.
“It’s staying out of third and long, that’s as simple as it gets,” Weeden said. “You put yourself in better position on first and second down and give yourself a better chance.
“We just weren’t able to get anything rolling, especially on third down. We sucked.”
More involvement from running back Trent Richardson might be part of the solution. Richardson had only 15 touches (13 carries for 47 yards and two catches for 30 yards) against the Dolphins.
“He’s going to have to touch the ball,” Weeden said. “There’s no secret to that. He’s got to do more things and be more involved and do some things in this offense whether it’s running the ball or [catching] out of the backfield.”
Still, Weeden must elevate the offense.
“When you’re in that position and you can be the guy and you can be confident, if he can continue to do that, then he can get his team going in the other direction, and that’s pretty special when you can do that as a quarterback,” Flacco, who’s 10-0 against the Browns, said during a conference call. “I think he’s got all the tools to do that.”
It’s time for Weeden to show it. And even though the Ravens allowed seven touchdown passes against Manning in their 49-27, season-opening loss to the Broncos, Weeden knows their defense won’t make anything easy for him.
“They don’t make a ton of mistakes,” Weeden said. “When you’re playing against Peyton Manning, he dices up a lot of people. But it’s a very good defense. We expect it to be a hard-fought AFC North game just like always.”
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.