Countdown to The Draft
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By Tony Grossi
The Morning Kickoff …
The 480 bridge mentality: Browns fans are so star-deprived, so win-starved, so scarred by bad football, they’ve lost all sense of perspective.
They want results instantly. They want a polished, winning, franchise quarterback delivered by Twitter, not developed over time.
Judging from the reaction I’ve heard all week – which has been reflected by the area’s equally frustrated media – Brandon Weeden’s honeymoon is over after 15 plays in his first preseason outing.
That’s how long it took for Weeden to commit two turnovers and the countdown to Matt Barkley, or the next No. 1 pick, to begin.
Astonishingly, Weeden is over the hill at age … well, 28.
“How has Weeden’s demeanor been, bouncing back from a less-than-great first game?” Pat Shurmur was asked on Tuesday by a member of the media I respect.
If looks could kill …
Clenching his tongue between his teeth, Shurmur responded, "I don't know. You guys are painting his performance as less than whatever, number one. Number two, I think he's a very resilient guy. So when he has a bad play or two, or a bad series or two, I see him bounce back extremely well."
Of the four quarterbacks taken in the first round of the April draft, Weeden’s preseason debut was comparatively dismal – 3 of 9 for 62 yards, one interception, one lost fumble and no points on the board.
One thing I’ve learned in 28 years covering the NFL is you can use preseason numbers to prove any point you want. I’ve done it. Last year, Colt McCoy completed 60.9 percent of his passes in preseason, tossed four touchdowns v. one interception and compiled a passer rating of 101.7. We all wanted to believe his magnificent practice season meant something. Alas, it did not.
Been there, done that: This is where Weeden’s experience as a five-year professional baseball prospect should serve him well.
“Numbers … numbers are deceiving,” he said. “You know, when you’re only throwing nine times, it doesn’t look too good when you’re (completing) 33 percent. That’s the only negative when you’re only playing 15 plays.
“You don’t have the chance to come in and redeem yourself and do something better the next time out. Numbers are skewed sometimes.”
For the record, Weeden wasn’t thrilled with the fumble at the Detroit 28 on his first series, where he didn’t feel backside pressure from Lions rusher Willie Young, or the forced and miscommunicated throw to Greg Little that was intercepted.
Of the fumble, he said, “That I can correct by getting the ball out just a split second sooner. That’s something you can get a feel with as the game goes on.”
And of the interception: “Saturday we came out and ran that route with Greg five or six times (after practice). There’s only limited reps in team period and 7 on 7. So you have to come out and do more, talk through it. Those are easy, easy adjustments. There’s a lot of work to be done.”
If they haven’t done so already, the Browns’ coaches better make getting Weeden ready for Sept. 9 the No. 1 priority at practice.
Developing on the run: Browns fans don’t want to hear it again because every year the team breaks in a new quarterback. But there is going to be a developmental period for Weeden.
One heretofore overlooked adjustment he’s making is verbalizing the extra-wordy plays inherent in the West Coast offense.
“Some of the wordy ones can be tongue-twisters at times,” offensive coordinator Brad Childress said. “I encourage him to practice in front of a mirror with a script and enunciate all those words.”
Weeden said at minicamp he’d send his wife pictures of the play sheet and then have her test him on the verbiage. Now he’s taken to just blurting plays out loud when alone.
He said Shurmur’s plays are “a lot longer … a lot longer (than those at Oklahoma State). And I didn’t have to say them. In college, we signaled everything because we played so fast.”
Weeden also is learning not to dismiss field goals so casually and throw recklessly in the end zone. At OSU, he took more chances because he knew he’d be reloading again on fourth down.
“You rarely want to sit on that ability,” Childress said. “A lot of time, discretion is the better part of valor of trying to stick it through the eye of the needle. But we want him to be aggressive, want him to keep shooting. Whether it was the fumble or the interception, you want him to keep shooting where he’s supposed to be shooting. We won’t dissuade him from that, not right now.”
Not when he’s getting only 15 plays. Thursday in Green Bay, he should receive at least double that amount in what Shurmur is framing as the team’s premature dress rehearsal for the season.
Just remember, there still will be 24 days, 14 practices and two mop-up exhibition games before the real thing starts. And then, too, will start another phase of Weeden’s education.
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