BEREA: Although the Browns have a three-game losing streak, they also have a new reason for hope heading into the second half of the season because veteran Jason Campbell played well enough Sunday in a 23-17 loss on the road against the unbeaten Kansas City Chiefs to earn an encore.
Coach Rob Chudzinski named Campbell the starting quarterback for Sunday when the Browns (3-5) will face the Baltimore Ravens (3-4) at FirstEnergy Stadium.
“I thought Jason played very well,” Chudzinski said Monday during a news conference. “After looking at the tape, he was able to manage the game. He was able to escape and get out of some trouble and create some plays. He did a good job from a decision-making standpoint as far as protecting the football, and he gave us a lift in that game, so we’re real pleased with how he played. I think that his ability to come in, in a short week of practice, and be as sharp as he was and also in a tough place with the noise and the difficulty in communication, I thought he did an outstanding job of that.”
Campbell started in place of quarterback Brandon Weeden, who was benched last week, and overcame a slow start marred by three consecutive three-and-outs to provide the offense with a spark. He completed 22-of-36 passes (61 percent) for 293 yards and two touchdowns without an interception. He posted a passer rating of 105.4 and took just one sack, four fewer than the Chiefs were averaging a game entering the weekend.
“He made plays,” outside linebacker Paul Kruger said. “I think he did a great job, put us in a position to win. If our defense would’ve come out and played the first half the way we did the second, it would have been a completely different ballgame. I think Jason did an excellent job.”
During training camp this past August, Chudzinski had everyone in Northeast Ohio calling him crazy after he insisted the competition between Weeden and Campbell was “close.” Weeden took all the first-team reps throughout spring practices and camp.
“We and I believed that all along,” Chudzinski said, reflecting on his “close” description. “These guys, going back to April, got better and improved and showed that they were capable, so it was close in that way.”
Still, Chudzinski named Weeden the starter a week after he called it a tight race. Weeden, whom the previous regime drafted 22nd overall last year, is 0-4 as a starter this season and 5-14 in his career.
“Brandon was somebody we didn’t know a lot about and we wanted to find out more about him, and he showed well and did well in the practices and the preseason,” Chudzinski said. “The production hasn’t been there in the regular season that we would like, but his role is different now. He’s one play away from playing.”
The Browns even chose Weeden over Campbell heading into Week 5 against the Buffalo Bills when Weeden was coming back from a sprained right thumb he suffered in Week 2 during the fourth quarter of a 14-6 loss to the Ravens, who are coming off a bye. As a result, Weeden replaced quarterback Brian Hoyer in the first quarter after he suffered a season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee against the Bills.
“The first few games, there were things Brandon had done well,” Chudzinski said. “In different stretches and at different points, he was doing the things you would like him to do. When he was able to get back and be healthy, we felt like his thumb was in good enough shape that he’d be able to play against Buffalo.
“I still think he’s a developing player. He has a good upside. He needs to continue to work which is what his approach is right now.”
Weeden helped the Browns rally from a 7-0 deficit to beat the Bills 37-24, but he performed poorly in consecutive lopsided losses to the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers. Chudzinski then summoned Campbell, and the team suddenly has a new outlook moving forward.
“We’ve had a tough stretch against some very good teams,” Chudzinski said. “I think the guys have learned that we can be, and when we are on our game and play consistently, that we can compete and go toe-to-toe with anybody.”
On the eve of the NFL trade deadline, which is at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Chudzinski reiterated that the Browns aren’t looking to trade wide receiver Josh Gordon. Since Sept. 22, Gordon has endured rampant speculation about the possibility of being dealt.
“We have no plans of trading any of our guys, including Josh,” Chudzinski said. “We’re not shopping him. And then as far as any other rumors, speculation, all of those things, I’m really not going to get into them.”
Right guard Jason Pinkston is eligible to return to the active roster this week. He was placed on injured reserve and designated to return after suffering a high-ankle sprain in the preseason. … The Browns no longer need to count wide receiver Charles Johnson toward their 53-man roster. They signed Johnson off the Packers’ practice squad two weeks ago but discovered during his introductory physical that he had a torn ACL. … Chudzinski said the offensive line had its best pass protection of the season against the Chiefs. He said the Browns would submit both of Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas’ crucial holding penalties in the fourth quarter to the NFL for clarification. … The Houston Texans signed undrafted rookie running back Dennis Johnson off the Browns’ practice squad. … Defensive end Billy Winn missed his fifth consecutive game Sunday with a strained quad but hopes to play against the Ravens. “I’m feeling great, the best I’ve felt in a while,” Winn said. … The Browns tied a season high with six sacks against the Chiefs, but nose tackle Phil Taylor isn’t satisfied. “We had six, but we probably left another six or seven out there,” Taylor said. “We have room for improvement.” … Running back Fozzy Whittaker said his mother, Gloria, traveled from Houston to watch him play the Chiefs. He scored his first NFL touchdown, a 17-yard catch-and-run in the third quarter. “I’ll give [the football] to my mother,” Whittaker said. “She was probably more ecstatic than I was.”
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.