BEREA: Rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden has been strip-sacked three times in roughly five quarters of preseason action, but he’s not planning on obsessing over his recent fumbling problem.
“I’m not going to carry a football around with me at night,” Weeden said Sunday after practice. “I’m not going to do that. If you start thinking about all of that other stuff, you get in trouble. … It’s not something I’m going to lose a lot of sleep over, but I’m definitely going to take it seriously, and when I can work on it, I’m definitely going to work on it.”
The Browns desperately need Weeden to solve his problems with protecting the ball before their Sept. 9 rematch against the Philadelphia Eagles in the regular-season opener for both teams. The Eagles’ quick pass rushers manhandled the Browns’ offensive line and tormented Weeden Friday during the Browns’ 27-10 exhibition loss.
“I think ball security is primary for anybody who touches the ball, especially the quarterback, who touches it every play,” Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. “He knows that we drill that. A great deal of fumbles in this league involve the quarterback in the pocket, and he knows that. We drill that and it’s very important for him to maneuver in the pocket where he doesn’t fumble, and if he’s getting tackled or sacked, he needs to wrap the ball up. He knows that.”
Shurmur’s last chance to pit Weeden against an opposing defense before the real games begin will be Thursday night, when the Browns host the Chicago Bears in the preseason finale. But if Weeden faces the Bears, it probably won’t be for long. Shurmur said the starters have played more than 90 snaps in the past two exhibition games, and he’s pleased with that workload.
“There’s a chance that [the starters] could play,” Shurmur said. “There’s a chance. When I send the ones out there, there is a very good chance you won’t see some guys.”
Regardless, Weeden knows hanging onto the football is a top priority.
“You just have to have a death grip on it,” Weeden said. “That’s all there is to it.”
Weeden fumbled twice Friday against the Eagles.
On first-and-goal at the Eagles’ 12-yard line, Weeden faked a handoff, turned to look for running back Montario Hardesty on a screen and was hit immediately by defensive tackle Derek Landri. The ball was knocked loose by Landri’s swiping left hand and recovered by Eagles defensive end Trent Cole with 9:38 left in the first quarter.
During screens, offensive linemen are often supposed to hold their blocks momentarily before letting the defensive linemen go. Then they’re supposed to set up blocks downfield. The timing, though, is key. Browns left guard Jason Pinkston released Landri too soon, and Weeden had only a split-second to react.
“I was supposed to turn, basically do a play-fake to my left, get my head around, and by the time I tried to get my head around, [Landri] hit me in the chin,” Weeden said. “It all happened pretty fast. I think Pinkston, we talked about it yesterday. … He said he let him go a bit fast and he watched it five or six times and said it made his stomach hurt. Like I said, it happens.
“[The offensive linemen] played well for me. They’ve been playing well this entire preseason, and I’m not going to let one little play discount how well they’ve played. He’s doing a great job. That was a play we hadn’t really run a bunch against our defense in practice.”
On third-and-15 at the Browns’ 15, Weeden took a shotgun snap, looked downfield and held the ball in his right hand down by his waist as he absorbed defensive end Darryl Tapp’s hit from the blind side. The ball shot out and was recovered by Browns tight end Jordan Cameron with 2:49 left in the first quarter.
Tapp beat left tackle Joe Thomas with a pass rush to the outside. Running back Montario Hardesty didn’t help Thomas with a chip block, even though Weeden said he was supposed to.
“The ball got a little low on me, and he tackled me from the waist,” Weeden said. “I worked on it today, just keeping the ball up a little bit. … I had the ball up high, and as I stepped up, the ball came down to my belly button, and I just reached for my waist and tomahawked through it. Those [defensive linemen] are strong. They’re 300 pounds, and they’re stronger than I am. I’ve got to have good ball security up top, and I think it’s more of a want-to thing. I’ve just got to get it done. There’s no other way around it.”
Weeden’s first fumble was in the preseason opener Aug. 10 against the Detroit Lions. On third-and-15, Lions defensive end Willie Young beat rookie right tackle Mitchell Schwartz with an inside pass-rush move and hit Weeden as he tried to throw. The ball squirted away, officials called it a fumble and the ruling stood after a replay review.
Thomas, though, is confident that Weeden will get a grip.
“I think any good quarterback, one of the attributes he has is going to be able to feel the rush and slide right, slide left, up, back, kind of feel the rush without having to take his eyes off downfield,” Thomas said. “But I think Brandon has done a nice job, and I think he’s going to continue to improve.”