Weeden shows encouraging signs

Posted Sep 5, 2013

Browns Senior Editor Vic Carucci says quarterback Brandon Weeden is showing coaches and teammates that he has the right qualities to be the team’s long-term answer at quarterback.

Brandon Weeden’s “prove-it” season is about to begin.

If things go reasonably well, he’ll have 16 games to demonstrate that he is the Browns’ long-term solution at quarterback. If not, the number could shrink … in a hurry.

That’s the nature of quarterbacking in the NFL.

You are always on stage. You are always being judged.

For Weeden, the judging begins in earnest on Sunday when the Browns face the Dolphins in the season-opener at FirstEnergy Stadium.

He has a chance to answer plenty of questions, beginning with whether he can overcome the challenge of facing one of the league’s better defensive fronts to lead the team to victory.

And can he rise above the fact he won’t have his best receiver, Josh Gordon, who must serve a two-game suspension? And can he demonstrate he’s a more efficient passer than he was as a rookie last year? And can he show that those impressive performances in his first two preseason games this summer were signs that he truly is benefitting from being in an offense far more suited to his skills and from the guidance of coach Rob Chudzinski and offensive coordinator Norv Turner, both of whom excel at making quarterbacks better?

Ask Weeden’s coaches and teammates, and they’ll tell you that they see plenty of reasons why his chances of answering each question with a firm “yes” are good.

For instance, Turner spoke at length Thursday about Weeden’s work ethic, saying, “He’s worked awfully hard to absorb this system, to learn it, to work on the physical things that he needs to do better, and to be successful.”

Turner wasn’t with the Browns last season; he was coaching the San Diego Chargers.

Trent Richardson was with the Browns last year, beginning his NFL career with Weeden. The running back got to know the quarterback well. He became familiar with the way Weeden went about his job, on and off the field.

And Richardson has seen a definite change in Weeden – a change that he called “incredible.”

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Richardson said. “This dude did a whole (180) as far as studying. He comes in every day like at seven o’clock (in the morning). He’s working hard.”

The running back also is noticing that Weeden is more vocal, more willing to accept a leadership role than he was in 2012.

Through his words and mostly through his hard work, Weeden is providing a sense of confidence within his teammates. He also is giving them a good example to follow.

“Other guys say, ‘Well, if Brandon can do it, I know I can do it,’” Richardson said.

The Weeden that Richardson saw during training camp wasn’t merely looking to secure a starting job that wasn’t handed to him as quickly as last year. The Weeden Richardson saw wanted to show that he could do what the best quarterbacks always do: deliver under the most difficult circumstances.

“He wants to be the guy that you call on on third-and-11,” Richardson said. “Or, when you need a play and he can’t hear it (being called from the sidelines) on his headphones, he’s calling his own play.”

If that’s the Brandon Weeden the Browns see for all, or even most, of this season, then he will likely go a long way toward removing doubt about whether he is their long-term solution at quarterback.

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