CLEVELAND: Brandon Weeden is just starting his second NFL season, but he wasn’t afraid to say he hadn’t been hit as much in a game as he was Sunday by the Miami Dolphins.
Not last season as a rookie quarterback with the Browns or during his college days at Oklahoma State.
“Nah, I don’t think so,” he said.
Somehow, Weeden was still standing afterward to talk about it.
He absorbed 16 hits from the aggressive Dolphins’ defensive front in the Browns’ 23-10 season-opening loss.
Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake leveled him six times, getting credited with 2½ sacks.
“He’s a good player and we knew that coming in,” Weeden said of Wake, a two-time Pro Bowl end. “We knew he was going to create some havoc. He played a great game. … I told you guys during the week, that’s a good front. They get after the passer.”
The Dolphins had six sacks (five of which came in the second half) as they exposed the Browns’ struggles on the makeshift right side of the offensive line.
Right tackle Mitchell Schwartz showed his inexperience, looking very much like the second-year pro he is as Wake blew past him time and again.
“He’s got different moves, it’s not just the same thing,” Schwartz said. “He’s strong, he’s definitely getting into you and able to do some things off of you as well. He’s got obviously the quickness, the speed and the power, as well.”
Right guard Oniel Cousins had his own share of problems trying in vain to slow the Dolphins’ pass rush. Cousins, a career backup at right tackle, made the second start of his six-year career at right guard due to ankle injuries that Shawn Lauvao and Jason Pinkston sustained in the preseason.
Four times, Cousins was flagged for penalties with two holds, a false start and a killer illegal hands-to-the-face penalty that negated a first-half, 18-yard pass play from Weeden to receiver Davone Bess on second-and-8 at the 16-yard line.
“He’s the best we have,” first-year Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said in defense of Cousins. “He’s gonna do a great job for us. It’s one game.”
Even having former tailback-turned-first-year-fullback Chris Ogbonnaya come over to help block on the right side didn’t do much to slow down Wake.
“I can’t speak for everyone else, but for myself, it was a pretty bad game,” Schwartz said. “I just got to do better. I’m sure we’ll correct some things. Hopefully there are technique things we can clean up, be more efficient with our technique and be able to block those guys up.”
Wake’s final sack came with the Browns facing fourth-and-2 with 5:33 to go in the game, as the 6-foot-3, 258-pounder’s final blow sent Browns fans scurrying to the exits early.
“[Wake’s] very difficult to play because he has an unbelievable motor,” Ogbonnaya said. “He keeps coming. I think that you see the caliber of his Pro Bowl efforts.”
Wake, a former Canadian Football League standout, took an unusual route to the NFL after going undrafted out of Penn State in 2005. He spent a year working as a mortgage broker after college before giving his football career one more shot in the CFL.
“We kept some cards in our back pocket throughout the preseason,” said Wake, 31, in his fifth NFL season. “We have a lot of guys [who] can do a lot of things pretty well, so [we’re] not just lining up doing the same thing. We have guys who can stand up, guys that can drop, rush the middle, rush the outside. I mean, all the guys have athletic ability to do a lot of things to keep offenses guessing.”
Sunday, there wasn’t a whole lot of guessing needed as Wake and company continually exploited the Browns. And with the Baltimore Ravens up next Sunday, the coaches and linemen will need to find a way to improve quickly.
“I’ve got to be better on my technique,” Cousins said. “I’ve got to be zoned in, focus in and erase the last play. It’s never a perfect game, but I’ve got to continue to get better.”
Stephanie Storm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.