By Nate Ulrich
Beacon Journal sports writer
BEREA: Browns offensive coordinator Norv Turner pointed out Thursday that quarterback Brandon Weeden needs help if he’s going to improve.
Weeden completed 26-of-53 passes (49.1 percent) for 289 yards and a touchdown with three interceptions, posting a passer rating of 48.4 in the Browns’ 23-10 loss to the Miami Dolphins in the regular-season opener Sunday. But the Browns allowed 16 quarterback hits, including six sacks, and a handful of Weeden’s passes were dropped.
In other words, Weeden needs to step up, and his teammates must give him more support Sunday, when the Browns (0-1) visit the Baltimore Ravens (0-1).
“It’s a combination, and we’ve got to get everybody to play better,” Turner said. “We’ve got to keep working to put our guys in a position to make plays. We left a lot of plays out there where we had opportunities to make plays. It was a breakdown. It was a one-man breakdown in a lot of instances, and it wasn’t necessarily Brandon [with] each one of those breakdowns.”
Turner lamented the meltdowns in pass protection and insisted the team is working to fix the issues.
“We had two different times where we had [receivers] running free, and we just broke down in protection,” Turner said. “[Weeden] could’ve had a couple really big plays, and that would change the way we’re all looking at it.”
Two of Weeden’s three interceptions went off the hands of wide receiver Greg Little and tight end Jordan Cameron. They were thrown hard, which Turner also attributed to protection problems.
“What happens to you as a quarterback, you’re starting to get pressure, I think you get sped up, you want to get rid of the ball, and you want to get it out of your hand fast,” Turner said. “I think a couple of those throws, they were hard, they were fast. Our guys know when the ball comes to you, you get your hands on it, you’ve got to catch the football. Obviously, when we’re throwing the ball over the middle, we’ve got to keep it down, so the ball’s not getting batted up in the air where they get chances at it.”
Turner also emphasized the importance of receivers creating separation from defenders.
“No question,” Turner said. “We’re working on all the different things you have to do to beat man coverage and to challenge.”
So considering all of those issues, does Weeden have enough around him to succeed? CEO Joe Banner was asked the question before the season opener last week during an interview with the Beacon Journal.
“I think the overall offense continues to need to get better, and it’s made progress,” Banner said. “I don’t want to break down where exactly that is. It’s not fair to the guys that are here or who we’d be trying to go after in the future. But I don’t think anybody thinks we have any excuses to not play well and make good progress. And we’ll keep improving from there.”
And Turner certainly did not entirely excuse Weeden, the 22nd overall pick in last year’s draft.
“I thought there were a number of times, there was a lot of the game, where he played at the tempo we want,” Turner said. “And there were some times he didn’t.
“I think he’s gotten a lot better. You can take the game and you can look at it two different ways. You can take the plays out where he was really good and say, ‘Hey, these plays, he’s made great progress.’ And you can take the handful of plays or the plays where you say, ‘That wasn’t good. You’ve got to continue to grow.’ ”
Working way back
Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton is planning to ease rookie outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo into his NFL regular-season debut Sunday against the Ravens after he missed the final two exhibition games and the season opener with a bruised lung.
Mingo, the sixth overall pick in this year’s draft, fully participated in practice Thursday after being limited Wednesday and all of last week.
“We’re going to ease him in,” Horton said. “Obviously, your first-round pick, you want him on the field as much as you can. It’s going to be what he can handle. I also want to realize that he’s only played seven [preseason] plays total in the NFL, so I don’t want to just throw him in there and say, ‘Go!’
“He’ll be playing for the first time, so I want to eliminate the error factor by calling a different game. I don’t want to overload him his first game, but I also want to give him some soft pitches to hit. I want to give him less thinking and more reaction-type stuff.”
Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill picked on Chris Owens and Buster Skrine, who played through a shoulder injury, while fellow Browns cornerback Joe Haden shut down wide receiver Mike Wallace. Owens was targeted 10 times and surrendered nine receptions for 89 yards, including 46 yards after the catch, according to ProFootballFocus.com. Skrine gave up wide receiver Brian Hartline’s 34-yard touchdown catch.
“Going back, I wish I would have done something more to help [Owens and Skrine],” Horton said. “We did a great job of taking Mike Wallace out of the game and Brian Hartline had an out-and-up for a touchdown, which turned out to be the winning play of the game. I appreciate what Buster did. He was hurt last week, and we weren’t sure he was going to play last weekend. He had fantastic mental and physical toughness going into the game and playing. When you look at the overall performance, they held their own. If I could take back one call [on Hartline’s touchdown], I would.”
Starting strong safety T.J. Ward (shoulder) returned to practice Thursday after sitting out Wednesday. He and wide receiver Travis Benjamin (thigh) were limited.
In addition to Mingo, Skrine was upgraded from limited participation to full participation.
Starting right guard Shawn Lauvao (high ankle sprain) and starting defensive end Ahtyba Rubin (calf) did not practice.
During a radio interview Thursday with 92.3 The Fan, Banner said Lauvao is “very close” to returning to action. Until then, Oniel Cousins remains penciled in as Lauvao’s replacement.
If Rubin is sidelined against the Ravens, Billy Winn will likely start in his place for the second consecutive week.
“It hurts because [Rubin is] a good player that you don’t have on the field, but I have fantastic and tremendous trust in our players,” Horton said. “I just know that we’ll have a good, solid player in the game.”
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com.