You’d expect a starting quarterback spot up for grabs to be a bigger storyline in Cleveland Browns training camp but we can only really call this a position battle because the Browns coaching staff has chosen to keep the appearance of a quarterback battle alive into the preseason. The signing of veteran quarterback Jason Campbell in the offseason was likely to goad Brandon Weeden along in his development and preparations for this football season. Make no mistake about it, this will be Weeden’s job until he gets injured or proves to have failed conclusively. That said, this is still a defining moment for Weeden, as he is now a 29-year-old Year 2 quarterback with the weight of the franchise on his shoulders.
The good news is that the new offense of coordinator Norv Turner and head coach Rob Chudzinski is a much better fit for Brandon Weeden and his set of skills. Although Weeden really needs to make improvements with his accuracy this year, the new offense is less about accuracy and more about the opportunity for big throws downfield. This might allow for Weeden to gain more comfort in the pocket, not trying to be too fine with every pass. The physical tools are there. Probably the bigger problem for him last season was mental. Weeden has to play smarter in the 2013 season. He has to do a better job of reading defenses, going through his progressions and looking off defenders. Far too often in his rookie season, Weeden stared down his first option and most any NFL defense will have a field day with a quarterback who’s doing that as routinely as he was. Case in point, Week 15 against the Washington Redskins:
Weeden sees DeAngelo Hall showing blitz from the nickel spot and can’t wait to get it to slot receiver Greg Little, who is running a crossing pattern.
Weeden does a half-hearted play action fake. He’s already locked in on Little and can see that Hall has left him uncovered.
Outside linebacker Rob Jackson does not blitz and is reading Weeden the whole way. Weeden still has a small passing lane to get it to Little when he crosses between the linebackers.
Weeden waits way too long and tries to throw it over the linebacker and it’s horribly underthrown and intercepted. By the time the ball’s in the air, there are three defenders just watching how locked in Weeden is on Little.
This was the second play of the second half, in a game the Browns were winning and it was an absolute killer. It set up an easy Redskins score a couple plays later and completely changed the complexion of the game.
In the offseason, the Browns signed quarterback Jason Campbell, who spent 2012 backing up Jay Cutler in Chicago. Campbell should be seen as damage control for the team, at this point. Though he most recently had a couple of rocky starts for the injured Cutler, Campbell has loads of experience starting in this league. He’s notched 72 NFL starts and a decent 82.5 quarterback rating over eight seasons in the league. He’s the type of capable veteran backup you want to have behind a young unproven starter like Weeden. Still, the Browns have no realistic intentions of starting Campbell. There’s just no upside to it.
Brandon Weeden was drafted at 28 with the promise that he would be a more mature and NFL ready prospect. Unfortunately, he looked every bit the part of your garden-variety rookie quarterback; Overwhelmed and underprepared. He managed to look less seasoned than his younger first year counterparts Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson. It’s such a unique situation with Weeden. It isn’t entirely fair to ask so much of a second year quarterback but when you enter the league five or six years older than your peers, things just aren’t going to be fair for you. At his advanced age, Weeden can no longer afford to be a work in progress.
Projected starter: Brandon Weeden would have to have an utterly disastrous preseason not to be named starter for Week 1.