- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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Recent history regarding inexperienced quarterbacks says it won't happen this year.
Rookie quarterbacks have gone 51-95 over the past three seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Many remember the immediate impact of the Ravens' Joe Flacco and the Falcons' Matt Ryan in 2008, when they guided their teams to 11-5 records. But most first-year passers have failed to live up to those expectations as rookie quarterbacks have a .349 winning percentage since 2008.
Weeden is one of an NFL-record five rookie quarterbacks to start in Week 1. The Elias Sports Bureau determined that the most rookie quarterbacks to start a season opener in any season was three, and that hasn’t been done since 1968 and 1969.
"Really he’s kind of improved every day," Browns coach Pat Shurmur said of Weeden. "For a guy that’s going through this for the first time as a pro, I think he’s very ready.”
The Browns certainly need him to be ready. Cleveland quarterbacks have thrown for 131 touchdown passes since 2004, second-fewest in the NFL to the Oakland Raiders (130), according to ESPN Stats & Info.
That's one of the reasons why the Browns used the 22nd overall pick on Weeden. Over just the last two seasons, Weeden threw for 71 touchdowns, the second-most in the FBS over that time.
“I think he’s going to be really good," general manager Tom Heckert said. "He knows he doesn’t have to do everything himself. He doesn’t have to go out for 500 yards and 10 touchdowns. He doesn’t have to do that. We think we’re starting to get better. Like I said, if he doesn’t turn the ball over, and we’re not saying play scared or anything, but if you can take care of the football, and we’re going to be fine."
Turning the ball over has been a problem for Weeden in three preseason games. He's fumbled three times (losing two) and threw one interception.
Heckert said he didn't see a lack of pocket awareness from Weeden while studying film of him at Oklahoma State.
“The two big ones are the ones he got hit and fumbled. That’s the problem," Heckert said. "The interception, the one to Greg [Little], that’s whatever. I don’t think that’s a big deal. I’m just saying hanging on to the football, when he got hit twice. That can’t happen. Those weren’t big hits. He’s got to hang on to the football.”