A look inside Browns’ QB battle
A strong offseason has the Cleveland Browns feeling like they’re on the verge of contention in the AFC North. Before that dream becomes a reality, though, the franchise needs to decide on a quarterback.
The Browns’ competition there could be one of the most entertaining during the NFL preseason, with at least three QBs in the mix for the No. 1 gig.
To get you ready for that battle, here are the abbreviated scouting reports for the contenders:
The list of veteran starting quarterbacks in the NFL who are younger than Weeden includes Aaron Rodgers, Alex Smith Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Matthew Stafford and several other guys who have been around the block. Weeden, who turns 30 in October, does not have much of a window to prove that he can be the Browns’ QB of the future — because his is a future with limited seasons left.
The bright side for Weeden is that new coach Rob Chudzinski and offensive coordinator Norv Turner should put him in the best possible position to succeed. The vertical-passing attack that Chudzinski favors (and with which he previously helped Derek Anderson thrive as the Browns’ quarterback) fits right into Weeden’s abilities. Weeden made way too many mistakes last season — 17 interceptions to 14 TD passes — but he did some of his best work when stretching the field deep, to guys like Greg Little and Josh Gordon.
Weeden also took 28 sacks last season and his completion percentage dropped from 62.3 percent to 41.8 when he faced pressure, according to Pro Football Focus. But while Weeden is less athletic than the Browns might like, he should be an upgrade in that area on Philip Rivers, whom Turner led successfully for years in San Diego.
There’s a lot to be skeptical about here, but Weeden is the odds-on favorite to start.
In terms of NFL experience, Campbell is the runaway winner in this competition. He’s made 71 career NFL starts (though just seven over the past two seasons), so he is clearly the veteran voice here.
Beyond that, is there enough to get the Cleveland coaching staff excited here, should Weeden falter? It’s not as if Campbell has ever really thrived as a starter — his best season in Washington was an 8-8 campaign in 2008, and he was off to a 7-5 mark in 2010 with Oakland. But since Weeden’s need to get rid of the ball more quickly was mentioned above, it’s definitely worth pointing out that Campbell does not escape the pocket well and has a slow throwing motion. He has been sacked 153 times during his career, 43 coming in 2009 with Washington and another six when he was thrown to the wolves in a spot start against San Francisco last season.
Where Campbell might be able to make a move during camp is in the Xs and Os portion of the game. While Weeden deals with his second pro scheme in two years, Campbell should be able to dive right in and feel comfortable.
The most recent addition to the Browns’ QB derby, Hoyer is entering his fifth season in the league and will be suiting up for his third team. But what do we really know about him as an NFL quarterback?
He served as Tom Brady’s backup in New England for three seasons, so that at least should have aided his mental approach to the game. He also performed admirably well in a spot start for the Cardinals against San Francisco last season (19 for 34, 225 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT). Beyond that … Hoyer remains extremely unproven.
The 27-year-old QB carried a reputation as a “game manager” with him into the NFL out of Michigan State. Hoyer does not have the big arm that Weeden possesses, but he might be better at setting up in the pocket and making quick decisions to get rid of the football. Those traits may not make him an ideal fit for the Chudzinski-Turner attack; but if the Browns’ goal is just to get the ball into the hands of their playmakers, Hoyer could help.
Likely the odd man out on the depth chart, Lewis actually turned in a better-than-expected start against Pittsburgh in 2012. While the Browns lost at Heinz Field, Lewis completed 69 percent of his passes for 204 yards.
Lewis is the best athlete of this QB group, but he’s also the least polished player — he holds the ball too long, as evidenced by Pittsburgh’s four sacks against him, and has mediocre arm strength.