Friday, October 4, 2013
Browns go back to opening square at QB
By Pat McManamon
For the Cleveland Browns, it’s back to Brandon Weeden.
For this season.
But the fallout from the knee injury to Brian Hoyer that will keep him out for the season goes far beyond 2013. Because it puts the Browns back in the quarterback quandary they were in when the season started.
At that point, Weeden was a guy about to be 30 on a one-year tryout. A new regime always prefers its own guys, but it was willing to give Weeden a shot as it pondered the future of the quarterback position.
Given the options available, and given that the team wanted to shore up the defense with the first pick in the draft, the coaching staff invested a lot of time and energy with Weeden in the offseason.
But they didn’t get results. In the first two games, Weeden completed 55 percent of his passes and was sacked 11 times. The Browns scored one touchdown and 16 points.
It was hardly the Kardiac Kids.
But Weeden hurt his thumb, which allowed the team to go to Hoyer, and Hoyer’s ability to get rid of the ball quickly and on time brought the three-step drop back to the offense. For whatever reason, Weeden just does not operate as quickly as Hoyer -- and the proof was in the numbers.
Heading into Thursday’s game, Weeden got rid of the ball on average in 4.3 seconds, while Hoyer did it in 2.8 seconds -- those numbers courtesy of the ESPN Stats & Information. A 1.5-second difference is huge. It can mean the difference between a pass batted down and a completion, a completion or an interception, a positive gain or a sack.
Hoyer brought the short passing game back to the offense. In his two starts, Hoyer completed 70 percent of his throws less than 10 yards, with three touchdowns. Weeden was 38.4 percent on throws of that distance, with one touchdown and two interceptions.
In some ways it’s logical. Weeden’s strength is his arm. His touch is not as good as his arm strength. That leads to longer pass plays, a longer time in the pocket, and the increased chance of being sacked.
The encouraging news was that against Buffalo, Weeden threw the short pass better, completing 8-of-11 less than 15 yards. He also threw the long one well -- and his 47-yard completion to Greg Little on a deep post that set up a touchdown was a thing of beauty.
Weeden has a rare second chance, one that it didn’t seem he’d have as long as Hoyer was playing the way he was. Why does Rob Chudzinski think it will work?
"Because we don’t have any choice," the Browns coach said.
The statement isn’t as bad as it sounds. Chudzinski added that he expects every player he puts on the field to do well, regardless of position, and they're going to work to help Weeden.
That being said, the Browns don't have many choices.
Even if they add a guy such as Josh Freeman, recently released by Tampa Bay, it will take time to work him into things. The benefit of Freeman, though, is it would give the Browns a chance to evaluate him for the future as well.
If it sounds jumbled, it's because it is. The Browns remain high on Hoyer, but making a long-term judgment based on two games is tough. It seems as though it has been a constant in Cleveland since 1999, some sort of curse left by former owner Art … you know who. No matter what the team does or tries to do, there is constant juggling and uncertainty at the quarterback position.