BEREA: Browns Town was already in an uproar.
Last Wednesday, news broke that running back Trent Richardson, the third overall pick, needed a second arthroscopic surgery in six months on his left knee and that cornerback Joe Haden, the top choice in 2010, had failed a drug test, which could result in a four-game suspension.
On Thursday night, the Washington Redskins’ Robert Griffin III started a run of impressive performances by first-round quarterbacks in the Class of 2012. Griffin, the player the Browns wanted to trade up for — but not badly enough to follow instructions and make the Rams their best offer — turned in a rating of 145.8 against the Buffalo Bills.
After Griffin was the Miami Dolphins’ Ryan Tannehill, who finished with a rating of 106.6 Friday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the Indianapolis Colts’ Andrew Luck, who went 142.7 against the St. Louis Rams on Sunday.
All that came on the heels of Browns starting linebacker Chris Gocong tearing his Achilles on Aug. 4. Last year’s No. 1 pick, defensive tackle Phil Taylor, is out for an extended period following mid-May surgery on a torn pectoral.
If ever there was a time the Browns needed a stellar debut from quarterback Brandon Weeden, Friday night against the Detroit Lions was it.
Instead, the 22nd overall pick was abysmal, at least numbers-wise. Playing just 15 snaps in a 19-17 victory, Weeden completed 3-of-9 passes for 62 yards and a 19.0 rating in Detroit. He lost a fumble, threw an interception and had another one dropped.
Not really that bad
Browns fans know preseason debuts mean little. (If they did, Tim Couch would be on his way to the hall of fame instead of analyzing University of Kentucky football games.) But to no one’s surprise, they saw Weeden’s statistics and did what they do best — panic.
At least in this instance, they seem to be overreacting. Weeden’s debut wasn’t nearly as disastrous as it appeared.
There was no real game-planning or study of the Lions’ tendencies. His playing time was so limited that he never found his rhythm. That caused him to press, not exactly the best idea for a player who is already a gunslinger.
“When you know you’re not going to play very much you want to be aggressive, that’s just my nature,” Weeden said. “I’m an aggressive player.”
But Weeden thought his numbers were deceiving, which he said was his usual reaction when he watches himself.
“When you’re only throwing it nine times, it doesn’t look good when you’re 30 percent,” Weeden said. “Just a couple of mental things on my part, if we can get on the same page with a couple of my receivers. … That’s the only negative of playing 15 plays because you don’t get a chance to come in and redeem yourself and do something better the next time out.”
Weeden called his mistakes “minor things … so small that they’re easy fixes.”
He was most distressed about his fumble, which came on the Browns’ first series, on third-and-15 from the Lions’ 28. Trying to dump off to tight end Jordan Cameron, Weeden was sacked and lost the ball. The turnover fell into the gray area between incomplete pass and fumble. The replay assistant challenged the ruling by the replacement officials, but let it stand.
“Regardless on whether it was a fumble or it wasn’t a fumble, I’ve got to get that ball out quicker,” Weeden said. “Just knowing where we are on the field, knowing how good [kicker] Phil [Dawson] is, that’s three points.”
Some would have thought Weeden’s last play, his interception on a pass intended for receiver Greg Little, would have been much more distressing. Weeden said the two were “on different pages.”
Weeden said the solution was more repetitions, and he and Little got to it Sunday after practice.
They went over the play five or six times, talking it through, with Little explaining what he saw and what he’s thinking when he’s running that route.
“Some guys do things differently, and I see things differently when you have those big 300-pounders right in your face,” Weeden said. “Those are easy, easy adjustments going forward.”
Little called Weeden a hard worker who insists on correcting practice mistakes immediately afterward, repeating the botched plays twice. When offensive coordinator Brad Childress told Weeden to enunciate plays into a mirror, Weeden did what he was told and also enlisted his wife, Melanie, to help. He never called plays with as much verbiage at Oklahoma State, where the coaches used signals to keep the fast-paced offense moving.
Maturity not in question
Those are the benefits of having a 28-year-old rookie starter. He will be more resilient, more aware of how to correct his mistakes and more willing to put the time in to fix them.
“He does a good job commanding things,” Browns rookie right tackle Mitchell Schwartz said of Weeden. “All quarterbacks on some level are more mature than their age. So he probably acts like a 35-year-old.”
Because of his aggressive nature, the Browns will have to live with some interceptions from Weeden. But Browns coach Pat Shurmur didn’t seem nearly as alarmed about Weeden’s first game as Browns fans, who are seeing their team pounded on all fronts from NFL analysts predicting 2012 doom.
“In my opinion, it’s still very, very soon to start characterizing good and bad,” Shurmur said.
Shurmur is right. Weeden needs time to develop chemistry with his receivers and snaps in preseason to find his rhythm. Target practice starts Sept. 9.
Marla Ridenour can be reached at email@example.com. Read the her blog at http://www.ohio.com/marla. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sports.abj.