The Dallas Cowboys signed quarterback Brandon Weeden on Monday, a man in need of a fresh start. After playing minor league baseball, Weeden came out of Oklahoma State a lot older than most draft picks playing at his position and he’s now 30 entering his third NFL season.
We’ve reviewed five NFL starts of Weeden, three his rookie season and two during his final season with the Cleveland Browns.
Here are some observations:
1. First NFL start is against the Philadelphia Eagles at home and you can tell the Browns have a plan for Weeden under first-year coach Pat Shurmur. The Browns have asked Weeden to throw slants on three-step drops, use play-action passes and utilize rookie running back Trent Richardson. The Eagles shut Richardson down in this game, forcing Weeden to do more than he’s capable of given his inexperience at the NFL level. It’s a close game with nine turnovers, but a game the Eagles win, 17-16.
2. Weeden gets knocked down a lot his rookie season and that’s surprising with joe Thomas at left tackle and highly regarded Alex Mack at center. With so much pressure in the pocket, Weeden gets several passes tipped at the line of scrimmage his rookie season. Some of it has to do with the offensive line’s failure to give him a clean pocket, and he doesn’t move around the pocket or fix his arm angles when defenders are in his face. The first interception of Weeden’s career is the result of a tipped pass when receiver Greg Little can’t hold a pass. At one point during the season, the Browns had 15 tipped passes from the line of scrimmage.
3. Weeden displayed improvement from Week 1 to Week 2. He was picked off twice in the Week 1 game against the Eagles, both by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on deep balls thrown short of the receiver. Weeden needed to throw these passes with more air under them to allow the receiver to make a play. In the next game, against Cincinnati, Weeden was incomplete on a deep ball to Mohamed Massaquoi, but instead of the ball getting tipped by the defender because it was short, the pass was on the outside shoulder of the receiver, giving him a chance.
4. One of the problems for Weeden during his rookie season was the number of dropped passes his team endured. During a Week 6 game against the Bengals, fullback Owen Marecic dropped two passes in the flat. The Browns, in Weeden’s rookie season, employed 15 rookies, second-most in the league, which led to overall inconsistency. The Browns were 0-5 to start the season, and there were 13 dropped passes by their receivers.
5. The first touchdown pass of Weeden’s career was the result of Richardson eluding four defenders into the end zone. The first touchdown pass to a receiver came on a nice throw to a wide open Little as Weeden stepped up in the pocket with confidence.
6. In season openers, Weeden has thrown seven interceptions, with some coming on tipped passes. In Weeden’s second season opener, tight end Jordan Cameron failed to snag a pass on a throw behind him that led to an interception by Miami’s Dimitri Patterson.
7. In the loss to the Dolphins, in Season 2, Weeden does a nice job finding Cameron on on a corner route into the end zone as cornerback Brent Grimes closes in to help on the coverage. Weeden does have a strong arm, but makes too many high throws and has to learn to put some touch on his passes.
8. With Shurmur out as coach, Weeden worked with Rob Chudzinski as the head coach in Year 2. Norv Turner was the offensive play-caller and used the timing-based offense the Cowboys use, where tight ends and the vertical passing game are emphasized. Turner doesn’t have Michael Irvin and Alvin Harper. So, he makes do with Devone Bess and Josh Cribbs, Little and Massaquoi.
9. Weeden continued to make bad throws, but as the 2013 season progressed he seemed more confident. But a thumb injury caused him to miss several games, and with the Browns' season going nowhere there was hope the Browns had put some pieces together for Weeden. It wasn’t the case. Not even close.
10. Weeden’s brief time with the Browns was summed up last season by a poor sequence of events against Jacksonville in Week 12. Weeden was intercepted by rookie safety Jonathan Cyprien on a throw behind Cameron. The turnover resulted in the Jags tying the game at 14. On the next possession, Weeden was picked off by another rookie, Dwayne Gratz. Weeden’s throw to Little was bad because the receiver wasn’t open. The turnover led to the Jags taking the lead and eventually winning the game. Weeden can benefit by playing with veteran tight end Jason Witten and receiver Dez Bryant. He won’t be on the field much with the first-team, but he can learn by watching how Tony Romo does things.