Breaking down Brandon Weeden’s second start
Brandon Weeden struggled in his preseason debut last week against Detroit, finishing just 3 for 9 for 62 yards and interception. He was much more effective in his second outing Thursday night at Lambeau Field.
Weeden completed 12 of his 20 passes in a full half of action against Green Bay to help the Browns to a 16-7 halftime lead (they went on to win, 35-10). How’d Weeden do it? Here’s a quick look at each of his 20 pass attempts:
Pass No. 1 — 19-yard completion to J. Gordon: Weeden’s first pass was one of his best of the night. On a 1st-and-10, right after a pair of Montario Hardesty runs had moved the chains, Weeden perfectly executed a play-action to free up Gordon on a short post. Weeden’s fake freezes the tight ends, and No. 51 D.J. Smith bites on the motioning tight end, giving Weeden just enough of a seam to hit Gordon in the numbers.
Pass No. 2 — Incomplete, thrown away: Smith came untouched up the middle on a blitz. Weeden did well just to get the ball away, get it out of bounds, and have it land in the vicinity of an eligible receiver to avoid intentional grounding.
Pass No. 3 — Incomplete, screen to M. Hardesty: This was a rookie mistake that could’ve ended in a pick-6 for the Packers. As you can see from the photo below, Weeden had pressure in his face as Hardesty slip out for a screen. But you can also see what Weeden was looking at when he tried to fire one in to Hardesty.
His pass sailed over Hardesty’s head and right through A.J. Hawk’s hands. A more veteran QB probably just spikes one at Hardesty’s feet there for a safer incompletion.
Pass No. 4 — 6-yard completion to J. Cribbs: Weeden took a safe, short gain on a 3rd-and-20 shotgun situation. That decision helped Cleveland put three points up, but he appeared to miss Gordon streaking open across the middle of the field.
Pass No. 5 — Incomplete, dropped by J. Gordon: This one was 100 percent on Gordon. With Gordon running a simple dig route, Weeden delivered a pass to his numbers; Gordon dropped it.
Pass No. 6 — Incomplete to M. Hardesty: At least, I think this was intended for Hardesty. Both he and Cribbs were in a similar area, and Weeden’s 3rd-and-7 pass went awry as he was hit on the release.
Pass No. 7 — 12-yard completion to G. Little: Pretty basic stuff here. Weeden faked a handoff out of the I-formation, then hit Little at the first-down marker for six yards. Little turned upfield and picked up six more.
Pass No. 8 — Incomplete to A. Smith: Chalk this up to coverage. Weeden ran another quick play-action fake, then sat in the pocket for a couple of seconds before bailing back toward midfield and throwing the ball away. There wasn’t a lot of room up front, but this is one you’d like to see Weeden tuck it and go instead of fading deep.
Pass No. 9 — 24-yard completion to G. Little: Patience is the key here, as Little appeared to be Weeden’s No. 1 option coming out of a trips right formation on third-and-6. The Browns’ O-line held up, and Weeden had time to let Little find a gap in the middle of Green Bay’s defense.
Pass No. 10 — 6-yard completion to G. Little: Weeden checked down on a 3rd-and-7, and the Browns came up just shy of a first down as a result. Cleveland will live with Weeden utilizing his safety valves, though, especially early on as he gets used to the speed of NFL defenses. A punt is obviously a better option than an interception.
Pass No. 11 — 7-yard completion to J. Cribbs: With Cleveland pinned inside its own 10 and Green Bay showing blitz, Weeden smartly got the ball out quickly to Cribbs on a hitch. Safe and effective.
Pass No. 12 — 7-yard completion to E. Moore: Green Bay brought the house on 3rd-and-1, but a Brandon Jackson block gave Weeden just enough to find Moore for a first down.
Pass No. 13 — incomplete, intended for O. Marecic: Another just-for-show play-action fake to start, though this one didn’t do a lot to fool Green Bay. Weeden did a nice job stepping up out of pressure to get a pass off to Marecic, but the Browns’ fullback could not reel it in.
Pass No. 14 — 8-yard completion to J. Norwood: This was the type of play that can endear a young QB to his teammates and the fans.
On 3rd-and-5, Weeden was absolutely blasted by Brandian Ross, who came untouched on a blitz — the Cleveland coaches might have to chat with Jackson (No. 29, not blocking anyone) about that one. Weeden stood his ground, took the hit and delivered a pass to Norwood for a key first down.
Pass No. 15 — incomplete, intended for J. Gordon: Weeden’s absolute worst throw of the night, one that should have been taken to the house by Green Bay’s Casey Heyward. Weeden made another play-action fake, then turned, locked onto Gordon and tried to fire a pass from the right hashmark to the left sideline. NFL defenses won’t let you get away with those, and Weeden was lucky he only wound up with an incompletion.
Pass No. 16 — incomplete, dropped by G. Little: Green Bay rushed three and dropped eight on a 3rd-and-9. Weeden opted for Little, cutting across the middle of the field about five yards shy of the first down. Little had some green in front of him but couldn’t hold on.
Pass No. 17 — 3-yard completion to B. Jackson: Another check-down. This one came with Cleveland facing first-and-15 and at the start of a two-minute drill.
Pass No. 18 — 3-yard completion to G. Little: Three wides, Weeden in the shotgun … and a quick decision to dump it down to Little for a minimal gain. We saw Weeden make that decision more than once.
Pass No. 19 — 5-yard completion to B. Jackson: As far as two-minute drills go, this is about as close to the vest as you can play it. Weeden went 3-for-3 for a grand total of 11 yards. But this completion to Jackson got Phil Dawson in range for a 52-yard field goal.
Pass No. 20 — 18-yard completion to J. Norwood: Just before halftime, with Green Bay dropping to take away any bombs, Weeden stepped up against a three-man front and delivered a bullet to Norwood to again give Dawson a chance.