BEREA – Rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden didn’t look like himself Friday in the first full-squad practice of training camp. The confident, accurate throws of minicamps and OTAs were replaced with incompletions high and wide.
By the end of the first padded practice Sunday, Weeden felt like he was back on track.
“Decision-making and timing,” he said of what got fixed. “Day one my timing was just a little bit off with the guys. It’s just getting back into it.
“I made some mistakes that I usually don’t make. But I think if you watched yesterday’s practice and today’s practice, the balls are getting there on time and they’re more accurate and they’re where my guys can make a play.”
Weeden continues to take the vast majority of the repetitions with the first-team offense and is expected to be named the starter “soon” by coach Pat Shurmur. The early struggles are natural for a rookie –– even one who’s 28 years old – but the Browns can’t afford for them to be protracted, because he’s arguably the biggest key to their success.
“I don’t put too much credence in that,” president Mike Holmgren said of the issues Friday. “I think seven-on-seven for the first practice, the offense is usually behind the defense. There are very few quarterbacks that shoot lights-out in that thing, certainly not a rookie. So, no, I don’t worry too much about that.”
Accuracy is one of Weeden’s strong suits, and it was on display Sunday with a deep corner route dropped by tight end Alex Smith and a number of well-placed outs and comebacks along the sideline into tight windows. The arm strength that separates him from incumbent Colt McCoy is always available.
“I think he’s doing very well,” Shurmur said of Weeden. “Part of this process is getting to know the receivers. Part of the process is now executing with the addition of the run game. I think he’s doing a nice job.”
No matter how mature, or old, a rookie is, life is different in the NFL. Each new step in the process –– rookie minicamp, full-squad practice, training camp, preseason, regular season –– requires an adjustment period.
“You only know what you know,” Shurmur said. “He hasn’t been involved in a padded, physical practice here. Even though he’s not getting banged around, there’s certain things to learn from that.
“I can think of a handful of mistakes that he made today that he’ll never do again.”
Weeden takes pride in that. His first stop when he walked off the field Friday was the film room.
“I watched the practice and just repeated the mistakes and pushed rewind and just see where I went wrong,” he said. “You can’t dwell on it. It’s practice. We’re all gonna make mistakes. That’s why we practice.
“It’s something you’ve gotta learn from. Yeah, yesterday I didn’t throw some balls like I normally do. But if you watch today, some of the throws I missed yesterday I was spot on today. I think that’s just from correcting my mistakes, watching film and just preparing. I’m up till midnight, 12:30 at night studying the plays and trying to get a feel for what we’re doing the next day.”
All the problems weren’t fixed by Sunday.
Weeden tried to force a pass inside to Mohamed Massaquoi and safety Usama Young dropped the interception. Eric Hagg, who’s ahead of Young at free safety, didn’t drop his chance on an athletic play.
But Shurmur and Weeden weren’t distraught. Shurmur said the situation was third-and-long, and Weeden felt that was the right spot to take a chance.
“You’ve got to pick your spots. For me, that’s seven-on-seven,” Weeden said. “Just take your shots down the field. Try to make those throws that are difficult throws.
“I’m an aggressive thrower. Coach Shurmur told me after practice, ‘I don’t want to take away any of your aggressiveness, but there’s some things if it’s not there, you’ve got to check it down,’ and I understand that. I completely get it and I knew I made the mistakes. But, yeah, you’ve got to take shots and if you’re an aggressive player — look at Brett Favre — there’s gonna be mistakes every once in awhile, but there’s also gonna be some big plays.”
Weeden has formed a nice connection with Massaquoi early in camp, completing several passes. Massaquoi, who’s entering his fourth season, said any initial struggles from Weeden are par for the course.
“He’s working. He’s taking his time to get as good as a player as he can,” he said. “The NFL’s a lot different from college. You don’t get to baby as much, you’re picking up a playbook, you’re in a new situation, a new city, everything’s just different.
“You may not be as comfortable as you were in your previous situations, so sometimes it takes a little longer to get acclimated.”
Weeden is trying to speed up the process.
Contact Scott Petrak at (440) 329-7253 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.