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Friday, June 28, 2013
Batted passes not all Weeden's fault

By Jamison Hensley

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck set the rookie record for passing yards with 4,375 last season. The Seattle Seahawks' Russell Wilson tied the rookie record for touchdown passes with 26.

The Cleveland Browns' Brandon Weeden led the NFL in a category as well, but it's not something he will brag about. Weeden topped the league with 23 batted passes, five more than any other quarterback in 2012.

As Tim Hasselbeck explained recently on ESPN's "NFL Live," you can't put all of the blame on Weeden.

"I believe batted passes are a shared responsibility," Hasselbeck said. "The quarterback has to find passing lanes. The offensive line and the guys in pass protection have to do a good job of getting defensive linemen and linebackers' hands down."

One-third of Weeden's batted passes came on wide receiver screens or off three-step drops. In the "NFL Live" segment, Hasselbeck highlighted one play where Weeden had a pass batted down by unblocked Washington Redskins Ryan Kerrigan on a wide receiver screen. In that instance, Weeden had to throw around Kerrigan. Then, in a game against the San Diego Chargers, right tackle Mitchell Schwartz took too deep of a pass-block set, giving too much room between him and the pass-rusher on a three-step drop. With his hands free, the defender just had to jump to swat the ball away.

The expectation is for Weeden's batted passes to decline this year because of the new offensive system under Rob Chudzinski and Norv Turner, who will put Weeden in the shotgun more often. Chudzinski used the shotgun on 74 percent of the passes thrown last year by Carolina's Cam Newton, and Turner had Philip Rivers in the shotgun 77 percent of the time. Last season, Weeden only threw 42 percent of his passes out of the shotgun.

Plus, batted passes should decrease with experience. Many coaches want young quarterbacks to get rid of the ball quickly, and defenders anticipate them throwing on three-step drops. It's not a coincidence that three of the top four quarterbacks in batted passes last season were rookies.