BEREA: Rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden was correct when he said Week 2 couldn’t be any worse for the Browns’ offense than Week 1.
But will it be more of the same? Or will it be better?
All eyes will be on Weeden and Co. when the Browns (0-1) face the Cincinnati Bengals (0-1) at 1 p.m. today at Paul Brown Stadium.
The offense is desperate for redemption after suffering a total meltdown in the Browns’ 17-16 season-opening loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. The defense had five takeaways and scored a touchdown. The team scored all of its points off turnovers.
“We had some mistakes, but they’re correctable,” wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi said. “We’re gonna move forward. Everybody’s excited, and everybody’s eager to right the ship and get back to 1-1.”
It all starts with Weeden. His disastrous NFL debut included a 5.1 passer rating, a completion percentage of 34, four interceptions, two fumbles and several overthrows of wide-open targets.
Weeden said he watched his performance three times, which was “two times too many.” Then he moved on.
“If you dwell on it, it’s going to affect you,” said Weeden, the 22nd overall pick in this year’s draft. “It will affect you the rest of the week and you can’t do that. It’s over and done with. I learned from it, and I’ve got to play better.”
His teammates believe he will bounce back as the Browns open AFC North play in the 78th chapter of the Battle of Ohio.
“It’s just one of those things where he had a bad game,” Massaquoi said. “I don’t think it should be something where people dig deeper than that. It was just one bad game. It’s an isolated incident. He’s gonna put it past him, and he’s gonna go on to play some good football.”
The words of encouragement are nice. Still, Weeden needs support on the field, too.
Wide receiver Greg Little ran a slant route and dropped a pass at the Eagles’ 5-yard line; the ball ricocheted into the hands of safety Kurt Coleman at the 1 with 12:11 left in the second quarter. Weeden never regained momentum after the play and threw three more interceptions.
Little, meanwhile, had four drops last season in Cincinnati and knows the Browns can ill afford to experience deja vu.
“It’s just a play that I have to make,” Little said. “There’s nothing else to be said. I think we’re definitely dedicating more time to film study together as quarterback and receiver. In the past, we’ve been kind of flipping through it ourselves, but to have him in the same room and us going through it, I think we’re gonna benefit a lot more from that.”
The Browns are counting on Little to be their No. 1 receiver. Weeden targeted him four times in the opener, though Little finished without a catch. Massaquoi, the team’s No. 2 receiver, had three catches but was targeted eight times.
“I think it’s a little premature to say that we’re not in sync with him,” Little said. “It’s a first game. He’s hyper. We’re hyper. We’re in and out of breaks maybe too soon, or he’s in his drop faster. I think once we all settle in and calm down and play, we’ll start to see more results.
“I think we were fingertips away from making big plays last Sunday. I think we’re right where we want to be after the week of preparation that we had, and we’re gonna see those plays made.”
The chances of the passing attack clicking would increase if rookie running back Trent Richardson starts rolling. Like Weeden, Richardson did not begin his NFL career the way he had hoped.
Richardson had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee Aug. 9 and missed all four preseason games. He returned in time for the opener, only to rush for 39 yards on 19 carries (2.1 average). He also dropped a pass in the flat that could have resulted in a touchdown.
“I don’t think he played as well,” Weeden said. “He did some good things. I mean he’s a good back, but that’s his first game. He didn’t get a preseason to knock some of the rust off, so he’ll be fine. We’ll be fine as an offense, and I’m excited to be in the same backfield as him.”
Richardson appeared to run better Friday during practice, and the Browns need it to carry over to today. Bengals linebacker Rey Maualuga got Richardson’s attention last week when he told CBSSports.com there was “nothing spectacular” about Richardson’s first NFL outing.
Richardson, the third overall pick in this year’s draft, is determined to break out.
“My expectations are always going to be high,” Richardson said. “I always set my goals high. The sky’s the limit as far as how good I can be or how good this team can be as a unit, how much we can come together and try to win this week.”
Despite rough starts, the Browns remain confident in both of their rookie first-round draft picks.
“Having Trent come back, he’s gonna get his legs under him, and he’s gonna be a special player,” Massaquoi said. “Brandon, he’s gonna do what he does, and that’s be a great quarterback.”
If they can actually show it today, everyone in Browns Town will be able to let out a sigh of relief. And the offense would certainly have a better day than it did against the Eagles.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/browns.abj.