By Nate Ulrich
Beacon Journal sports writer
Browns coach Rob Chudzinski still isn’t ready to name a starting quarterback, but he’s pleased with what he saw Thursday night from Brandon Weeden during a 24-6 win over the Detroit Lions in the second preseason game.
How could he not be?
Weeden completed 8-of-12 passes for 117 yards and two touchdowns, posting a passer rating of 137.8. He connected with tight end Jordan Cameron for touchdowns of 10 and 5 yards.
“I’m still going to wait to name a starter,” Chudzinski said Friday during a conference call. “To me, this process is important. We’ll go through that, and when we complete the process, then we’ll name a starter.
“[In terms of Weeden’s] performance, he was really good overall. He led, I think, three scoring drives we had with him. [He made] a number of good throws. Certainly there’s some things he can improve on that we’re going to go through the film with him.”
Weeden, the 22nd overall pick in last year’s draft, also had a stellar preseason opener last week in a 27-19 win over the St. Louis Rams. He completed 10-of-13 passes for 112 yards and a touchdown for a passer rating of 127.7.
But Chudzinski saw some improvement from the first game to the second one that isn’t necessarily reflected in the box score.
“I thought that he really was throwing accurate balls out there,” Chudzinski said. “He did that in the first game as well, but he really had some nice throws there [against the Lions]. And then I think he had to move around in the pocket a little bit more. The rush was coming a little bit harder this week, so I think that was good for him as well to experience that.”
In the six series in which Weeden has played this preseason, he has led the Browns to three touchdown drives and two others that produced field goals. He has completed 18-of-25 passes (72 percent) for 229 yards and three touchdowns without an interception. His passer rating is 139.8, and he has not taken a sack.
Chudzinski surprised media and fans Tuesday when he described the competition between Weeden and second-string quarterback Jason Campbell as “close.” Weeden has taken all of the first-team reps throughout spring practices, training camp and the preseason games.
Campbell, who’s entering his ninth NFL season, has completed 18-of-21 passes (85.7 percent) for 143 yards and a touchdown without an interception through two exhibition games. His passer rating is 110.9, and he has taken three sacks.
In his postgame news conference Thursday, Weeden was asked if he’s surprised Chudzinski characterized the competition as “close.”
“I can’t control it,” Weeden said. “Whenever he wants to make that decision [to name a starter], he’ll make it. He makes all the calls. We just go out and we compete, and we play hard every day. Whenever the time’s right — and he knows better than we do — he’ll make that decision.”
Browns rookie Garrett Gilkey had never played right guard in a game or faced anyone close to as formidable and intimidating as Pro Bowl defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh until it all happened simultaneously Thursday.
Jason Pinkston started at right guard, but he suffered a right high-ankle sprain when defensive tackle Nick Fairley pushed starting left guard John Greco down and against the back of Pinkston’s leg during running back Trent Richardson’s 17-yard rumble with 8:51 left in the opening quarter. Pinkston was filling in for Shawn Lauvao, who had arthroscopic ankle surgery last week. Lauvao will miss the beginning of the regular season and Pinkston probably will, too.
That leaves Gilkey, a seventh-round draft pick from Division II Chadron State College, atop the depth chart, at least for now.
“It’s important to realize that you’ve got to be ready at any second,” Gilkey said after the game. “With Shawn going down and then Jason going down, it’s just time to step up. And I think that’s one of the things that Coach Chud has really expressed and kind of branded these past few weeks — the importance of being ready at all times.”
Gilkey was thrust into action after Pinkston was hobbled and went head to head with Suh for more than a quarter.
“That was my first time going against that competition level,” Gilkey said. “Suh’s a great competitor. He’s a great athlete, and it was good to go against him and to gain that experience. He’s doing nothing but making me better, which is making this team better.
“I think I got done what I needed to get done. It was definitely a jump, but I’m happy with how I did. I definitely have a lot of things I need to work and get better at. I think that’s one of the biggest takeaways from today — there’s a lot of room for improvement.”
After reviewing the film, Chudzinski was encouraged by Gilkey’s effort.
“I was pleased with what he did last night for coming into the situation he had to come in, against the guy he had to face,” Chudzinski said. “It was quite a challenge for him. He’s not [hall of fame guard] Joe DeLamielleure yet, but he has made big improvements over the course of the time that he’s been here.”
Gilkey, who played left tackle in college, conceded he must grow accustomed to right guard after spending the vast majority of camp at left guard.
“There’s definitely the adjustments you have to make, just like if you’re writing with your right hand and you go to write with your left hand,” Gilkey said. “A lot of things change: the muscle memory, your stance, the weight distribution, the loading your feet, where your eyes pan. Everything changes. So it was a good adjustment for me, and it’s just another opportunity.”
Cameron had three catches for 42 yards, including the two touchdown receptions from Weeden.
“Jordan did a nice job,” Chudzinski said. “He showed the playmaking ability that you like to see. He had some mistakes, some things we can really improve on, all correctable things. He’s been working on his blocking, and I think you had a chance to see some of his playmaking last night.”
The Browns have identified Cameron as their starting tight end, so he’ll have a chance to establish a breakout season.
“Anytime you can make plays and they’re looking for you and the opportunities arise and you take advantage of them, it’s just confidence for the next game,” Cameron said Thursday. “For me right now, that’s the biggest thing, knowing I can do it and taking advantage of the opportunities when they’re there.”
Chudzinski listed Weeden, Cameron, Richardson, outside linebacker Jabaal Sheard, nose tackle Phil Taylor and undrafted strong safety Josh Aubrey as players with standout performances against the Lions.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.