Browns offensive coordinator Norv Turner has long been one of the NFL’s most innovative minds. He also is one of its loudest yellers on the practice field.
“You have to have thick skin to run Norv’s offense because he’s hard on those guys,” linebacker D’Qwell Jackson said, laughing. “But he’s got the track record, and it’s not one of those things where he’s hard on them and he kills their confidence.
“He picks them up when he needs to, and I think you obviously see that from Brandon (Weeden) with the throws he’s making.”
Call it tough love or effective instruction, but Turner is clearly making a difference with Weeden in their first season together.
Weeden turned in his second straight solid performance on Thursday night, leading Cleveland to a 24-6 preseason victory over the Detroit Lions at FirstEnergy Stadium.
The second-year pro from Oklahoma State completed 8-of-12 passes for 117 yards and two touchdowns with a 137.8 passer rating. Those numbers translated into 17 points — and three scoring drives — on just four possessions.
“We did some good things, I don’t think we had any penalties and our communication was great,” Weeden said. “I started out a little slow, but came back on the second, third and fourth drives and did some good things.
“We just have to keep building off of it and continue to go forward.”
So far, so good.
In two preseason games running Turner’s complex scheme, Weeden has led the Browns’ first-team offense to five scores on six drives — and outscored the first-team defenses of the Lions and Rams by a 27-0 margin.
Will that success carry into the regular season? Who knows? But at this point, Weeden looks nothing like the indecisive, erratic signalcaller that he was in 2012.
“Our offense looked real good,” said running back Trent Richardson, who rushed for 33 yards on six carries in his NFL preseason debut. “The first couple of plays were kind of rough for us, but we picked it up after that and started moving the ball.”
Turner’s diversified attack saw starter Richardson, backup Dion Lewis and fullback Chris Ogbonnaya each log multiple carries with Weeden under center. Their three-pronged effort averaged 6.0 yards on 11 rushes against Detroit’s front four that includes all-world defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.
Weeden, meanwhile, upped his preseason totals to 18-of-25 passing for 229 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. But he was quick to credit the running game for helping his cause.
“Trent and Lewis had some great runs tonight,” Weeden said. “It was especially nice having Trent back out there because of what he adds between the tackles and catching the ball. He’s dynamic and he’s going to make this offense better.”
The same can be said about Cleveland coach Rob Chudzinski, who is exceptionally sharp on that side of the ball, but quickly hired his mentor in Turner once he landed the job.
Injuries could stunt the group’s progress — especially at right guard (Shawn Lauvao and Jason Pinkston are both hurt) and running back (Lewis broke his leg against the Lions) — but there legitimately appears to be enough talent to overcome them.
Wide receivers Greg Little and Josh Gordon, and tight end Jordan Cameron, in particular, have joined Weeden in taking a large step forward this summer. It won’t be easy for the Browns to contend in the AFC North Division, but their offense, at least, is moving in the right direction.
“It’s just kind of baby steps at this point in the preseason because the defenses are kind of vanilla,” six-time Pro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas said. “But I think the offense that Norv and Chud brought here is going to be beneficial because I think it really fits the talent we have and their skill sets.”
Contact Brian Dulik at firstname.lastname@example.org.