BEREA: The throw didn’t go for a touchdown. Had the Dawg Pound faithful been watching, they would have applauded, but the pass might have drawn nary a bark.
But it was one rarely seen on the Browns’ practice field, one that encapsulated quarterback Brandon Weeden’s talents.
During the first of two sessions Saturday at the Browns’ rookie minicamp, Weeden rolled left, left his feet and fired the ball to tight end Joseph Halahuni on a 20-yard out.
“Nice throw, Weeds,” yelled Nolan Cromwell, the new senior offensive assistant who was the NFL’s defensive player of the year in 1980 as a Los Angeles Rams safety.
Undrafted free-agent receiver Josh Cooper, Weeden’s teammate at Oklahoma State, said he’d seen such athleticism from Weeden before.
“We did that a few times. He’s looking really good doing that, rolling to his left, anyway,” Cooper said.
“He’s got decent feet and he’s naturally accurate. It’s just a matter of him getting used to how we do things and I think that accuracy will show,” Browns coach Pat Shurmur said when asked about the play.
Weeden has completed only three practices at rookie minicamp, which concludes this morning. But Shurmur and the rest of the front office have to be elated with the performance of the 22nd-overall pick from Oklahoma State.
Of course, he has yet to face a pass rush and he’s still getting used to the quarterback-center exchange after operating heavily out of the shotgun in a spread offense in college. But he improved greatly on the latter Saturday, with only one bobble in team drills.
Weeden threw a 97 mph fastball when he pitched in the minor leagues. But when he has to, he’s showing he has a touch that makes his ball very catchable.
“They know to take a little off it because the guy’s 5 yards away and whether to put it on the right or left shoulder based on where the defender is so he can turn away from it,” Shurmur said. “All things that we teach and we emphasize, but some guys kind of naturally get it.
“He’s a very smooth thrower, he throws the ball easy. A guy who can throw the ball with a smooth motion, that ball presents itself to the receivers well. I think that helps them be more efficient catching it.”
But there are times when catching Weeden’s passes can be hazardous to one’s health. Cooper said Weeden dislocated two of his fingers in practice during their sophomore year.
“It’s a tight spiral, it’s coming fast and it’s usually right on the money,” Cooper said.
“He can either fire it in there or put some touch on it. He’s that kind of quarterback. He knows what to do with the ball.”
Anyone who doubted that saw Weeden showcase his arm in a test for ESPN’s Sport Science.
Weeden said he flew to Los Angeles about 10 days before the draft to film the show, which uses cutting-edge technology to measure athletes’ skills.
Host John Brenkus came up with the idea to have Weeden attempt to hit clay pigeons, which offer a target of five square inches and are launched at more than 43 mph, according to a show segment on YouTube. Weeden had to release the ball one-third of a second after the pigeon was fired. His balls were measured averaging 48 mph. The exercise required on-point timing; the show said being off one-tenth of a second would result in a miss of six inches.
“Obviously, I was sweating it a little bit because I had never even shot clay pigeons with a shotgun,” Weeden said Friday. “I didn’t know what to really expect.”
Weeden said he approached the experiment like he was throwing a slant, trying to get the ball and the clay pigeon to meet.
“I am not going to lie, the first one I threw I missed by about six feet because the timing was way off,” Weeden said. “Then I got closer and I think I hit my eighth one. As they showed, I think I hit four out of five at one point. It was a lot tougher than I thought going in.
“They only had 100 clay pigeons, so I was kind of nervous I wouldn’t hit one.”
The YouTube segment of Weeden’s demonstration had over 478,000 hits as of Saturday. Cooper said he’d seen it, although he may not have watched the entire show.
“It’s pretty impressive, to be honest with you,” Cooper said. “It’s hard to do that with a shotgun.”
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