Brandon Weeden is in one of those weird NFL quarterback situations. He is on a team with an elite defense, electric special teams, and many emerging offensive weapons. The Browns don’t need Weeden to be an elite quarterback. They really don’t even need him to try and win games for them. If Weeden can effectively manage the offense in a way that he avoids turning the ball over, and can put together drives that keep the Browns ahead in the field position battle, they will continue to win. That said, here are the 3 things Weeden must improve in order to keep the Browns winning:
1. Stop Taking Big Sacks
This one seems like it should be so simple, but we’ve watched Weeden struggle with it his entire career. He stands in the pocket, seemingly oblivious to the pass rush coming. He stands perfectly still, almost statuesque, until some defender lights him up for a drive killing sack. It’s become so predictable a pattern with him that it’s almost morbidly comical. Why doesn’t he just throw the ball? Or move a couple of feet in either direction? It’s like someone has programmed his brain to make it impossible for him to scramble.
I knew Brandon is not the fastest guy in earth. The truth is that he doesn’t need to be. Look at a guy like Peyton Manning. He’s a slow moving, pocket passer. But the things that Peyton does to keep pass rushers at bay are things Weeden must try and emulate. He’s got a quick touch on his release, and he’s not afraid to scramble a little to extend a play. While Weeden will never be a Peyton, he should watch what he does. You don’t need to be RGIII to move in the pocket. You just need to do enough to give your receivers a few extra seconds to get open, or long enough to throw the ball away.
2. Give Guys A Chance To Make Plays
The Browns have some talented position players on offense who are dangerous with the ball in their hands. Josh Gordon is big, physical and fast. Travis Benjamin is one of the fastest players in the NFL. Greg Little, in spite of his issues catching the ball, is fast and extremely physical. Little can run guys over. Jordan Cameron is a size mismatch with every corner/safety in the league. Even Oby is dangerous on option/screen plays. My point here is the Browns have some guys who can make things happen when they have the ball. Weeden has got to get the ball into his playmakers hands. It doesn’t always have to be a homerun throw. Think of that screen to Benjamin a couple weeks ago. Big gain, all off of a maybe 2 yard pass. For some reason, even though he’s the one who has consistently struggled, Weeden doesn’t seem to trust his receivers. It’s very telling that Josh Gordon told Weeden to trust him in the Buffalo game. Weeden shouldn’t need to be told to trust a guy like Josh. I could understand Greg Little needing to ask for trust, but in the field Gordon has just be so good, so reliable. If Weeden can’t trust Gordon, he can’t trust anyone. And he’s got to if the Browns are going to succeed.
3. Don’t Be Afraid To Make Mistakes
If you asked me to describe Brandon Weeden in two words, I would probably choose “Scared Statue”. I explain the statue part early, but I haven’t touched on his timid nature until now. I kind of get it honestly. No one in Cleveland, not the front office, coaches, or fans, think he’s going to succeed. I’ve been in situations where I was written off before, but I don’t think I’ve ever been in a spot where everyone was just waiting to replace me. That’s a tough place to be, I’m sure, and I know mentally it’s taken its toll on the guy. It shows up with his hesitance to throw the ball. Weeden is so afraid to make a mistake on a throw that he would rather take the sack. See, no one can deny Weeden has a monster arm. He can really sling the ball, but you only see a handful of shots down the field per game because of that hesitancy. With his type of arm, it’s almost with an interception to take the shot at a big play down the field. Josh Gordon said that Weeden just needs to let it go and have fun. He’s right. Weeden would be a lot more dangerous, and a lot more fun to watch if he would just air it out. Will he? I guess we’ll find out Sunday.