Brandon Weeden's growing pains are getting painful to watch. In the Cleveland Browns' woeful 27-10 preseason loss to the Eagles on Thursday night, Weeden looked ragged against Philadelphia's pressure and struggled to hold onto the ball again.
Weeden, who was 9 of 20 for 117 yards, will face this same Eagles defense in 16 days in the regular-season opener. The bad news is that defense won't be coming off four days' rest like Friday night.
Like he did in the preseason opener, Weeden started off strong, completing his first four passes for 66 yards. When the Eagles started blowing past Cleveland's shaky offensive line, Weeden's lack of mobility and improvisation showed. He connected on 5 of his last 16 passes. He got sacked three times. He fumbled twice (losing one). Weeden's first fumble occurred in the red zone, when he was sacked after the Browns failed to execute a simple screen pass.
Not all of the blame for the Browns' unsightly performance can be put on Weeden. The offensive line couldn't handle the speed of the Eagles' defense and committed four penalties in the first half (left guard Jason Pinkston had false start and holding penalties on the opening drive). Tight end Jordan Cameron had a drop, and wide receiver Greg Little surprisingly pulled up on a catch over the middle.
In addition to the mistakes of the young Browns' offense, the defense struggled against the Eagles backup quarterback and Cleveland got a punt blocked deep in its own territory.
“I’m not worried, disappointed or concerned. We’re going to get it fixed," Shurmur said. "Again, I don’t mean to be short. Let’s look at it for what it is, we need to play better. I’m encouraged because I got a bunch of guys in there that when I talk to them after the game, I could see their jaws lock and understand what we need to get done. I’m looking forward to them having their day off and getting back to work. I think we have got a crew here that understands the message.”
Here are some other thoughts on the Browns' third preseason game:
One of the few bright spots was the improved play of wide receiver Josh Gordon, who had three catches for 50 yards after a good week of practice. He beat three-time Pro Bowl cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, who had tight coverage, for a 28-yard reception on the first play of the game. The Browns are looking for him to earn the starting job opposite Little.
Colt McCoy either improved his chances of winning the backup quarterback job or increased his trade value. Continuing a strong preseason, McCoy finished 7 of 9 for 74 yards and one touchdown. After McCoy's three-yard touchdown pass to Evan Moore, Seneca Wallace came in and threw an interception on the Browns' next offensive play.
One difference when the Browns play the Eagles in the regular-season opener is they'll face Michael Vick instead of backup Nick Foles, and that could be a good thing based on Friday night. After getting intercepted by Joe Haden on his second throw, he completed 12 of 17 passes for 135 yards and two touchdowns against Cleveland.
Filling in for top pick Trent Richardson (knee) again, running back Montario Hardesty fumbled for the second straight game. He nearly lost the ball on the first drive, too. Hardesty didn't find much running room and managed 12 yards on eight carries.
Poor play wasn't limited to the Browns' offense and defense. Their special teams made it a full-team meltdown when Reggie Hodges got a punt blocked in the first quarter. The Eagles took over at the Browns' three-yard line and scored their second touchdown two plays later.
Rookie linebacker James-Michael Johnson looked like a rookie. He decided to blitz Foles late which freed up tight end Brent Celek for the first touchdown. Johnson's roughing the passer penalty nullified an interception return for a touchdown by David Sims early in the third quarter. He did break up a couple of passes.
Veteran cornerback Sheldon Brown couldn't handle the speed of an undrafted rookie. Brown got beat twice by 5-foot-8 receiver Damaris Johnson for 58 yards. He didn't get any deep help from Eric Hagg on one deep throw. The Browns likely won't have any choice but to start Brown. Haden is reportedly facing a suspension from the league, and Dimitri Patterson is dealing with an ankle injury.