BEREA — At Oklahoma State, Brandon Weeden could throw nine passes in a long drive. In his NFL debut, nine passes were a full night’s work.
“As a quarterback you like to get in the rhythm of the game and get going,” he said Tuesday. “It’s tough in 15 plays.”
Weeden wasn’t complaining, just answering a question.
“Coach (Pat) Shurmur’s got a plan,” Weeden said. “He knows what he’s doing. It’s not his first rodeo.”
Weeden should have plenty of time to get his groove back tonight in Green Bay. Shurmur said he’ll play the starters at least a half and decide at halftime whether to keep them in to open the third quarter.
Weeden, a 28-year-old rookie, needs the work. Every game snap is vital to his comfort level with NFL defenses and his teammates. And the Packers game could be the most action he sees in the preseason. The Browns don’t want to show too much against the Eagles — the opponent next week and in the regular-season opener — or subject him to injury in the finale.
Weeden completed his first two attempts in the 19-17 win over the Lions, but finished 3-for-9 for 62 yards with a lost fumble, an interception, a 19.0 rating and no points. He’s eager to put a better performance on his professional resume.
“I’m excited to get back out there and not redeem myself, but correct the mistakes I made last week,” he said.
The incompletions are easy to explain — two unsuccessful screens, two missed hookups with raw rookie Josh Gordon and a throwaway under pressure. Weeden’s focus is on eliminating the turnovers.
He didn’t feel the pressure behind him quickly enough on a fumble that could’ve been called an incompletion because his arm was moving forward. The play started at the Detroit 28-yard line and ended what was looking like Weeden’s first scoring drive in the NFL.
“That was the one that I would really like to have back just because it took three points off the board,” he said. “The mistakes I made are so small that they’re easy fixes. I work on ‘em every day after practice.”
The interception was the result of a miscommunication with receiver Greg Little. He stopped when Weeden thought he’d keep going. When the pair returned to practice Sunday, they sought to make sure it would never happen again.
“We ran that play five or six times and we talked through it more than anything, just what he saw, what he’s thinking when he runs that route,” Weeden said. “You’ve got to talk through it and those are easy, easy adjustments going forward.”
Little said the chemistry necessary between a quarterback and his No. 1 receiver is developing.
“I think we’re coming along,” he said. “We watch film together and we’re just trying to develop that rapport and make sure we’re on the same page at all times and really see our relationship grow on the field.”
The knock on Weeden coming out of college was he didn’t do well when facing a strong pass rush. He should receive a stern test from the Packers’ 3-4 zone blitz led by linebacker Clay Matthews. Coordinator Dom Capers isn’t shy about bringing pressure in the preseason, which should help prepare Weeden for similar schemes from Pittsburgh and Baltimore.
“Quarterbacks can tell you that they’re comfortable with the blitz, but you know, when you throw that chin music at ‘em, you always want to see how they react,” offensive coordinator Brad Childress said. “So as much as we can get the merrier, I guess.”
Weeden ran a no-huddle, hurry-up, spread attack at Oklahoma State. The West Coast Offense of Shurmur and Childress is more regimented and the play calls more complex.
“I think he’s got the mind’s-eye picture of most of the things that we do,” Childress said. “Some of the wordy ones can be tongue-twisters sometimes and they’re tongue-twisters for everybody that has to say them, but I encourage him like all of the other quarterbacks I’ve coached to practice in front of a mirror with a script and have him enunciate all of those words.”
The learning curve is steep for Weeden, who didn’t call plays in college as the Cowboys used signals. He’s never tried Childress’ mirror technique but used his wife to help him during OTAs when there was a new installation of plays every day.
“So at night I had my wife call a play — she was butchering every play, by the way — and I would say ‘em back to her,” he said. “Now I’m good. I’ve got a feel for what we’re doing, I understand where we’re running the football, what motions we’re doing and it’s a lot better now than it was my first time out.”
Weeden is hoping he can say the same thing after tonight’s game. But Shurmur disagreed with the premise that Weeden’s NFL debut against Detroit was a disappointment.
“I think it’s very, very soon to start characterizing good and bad,” he said. “But 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.”
And with more than nine passes in the game plan for tonight, he’ll have a greater opportunity to find a rhythm and make up for any mistakes.