True test for Weeden is when it’s ‘live’

Posted by Bernie Kosar on May 31, 2012 – 2:46 am

By Bernie Kosar, Special Contributor to ClevelandBrowns.com

Here are my takes on the Browns made while appearing on “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford”:

Early in my career at the University of Miami, Howard Schnellenberger told me something when I was competing against Vinny Testaverde that has stuck with me ever since.

“Physical tools are obviously great to have,” he said. “But the quarterback position is one position where, mentally, it’s really imperative that you have your game down and you understand how to react in the heat of battle; when you, at 220-230 pounds, are getting run over by that 300-pound guy and you understand how to make that 18-yard comeback throw, that 20-yard square-in throw on third-and-10, and be able to make those plays. Or more importantly, don’t make the bad plays under duress.”

That perspective is what comes to mind as I think about Brandon Weeden’s performance in Browns rookie minicamp and OTA practices. From a standpoint of just physical tools, it has been a very impressive start for him. But at the quarterback position, the true test is when it’s live. And between now and Sept. 9, the only get “live” situations you get is in those preseason games.

Now, if it turns out that Weeden looks as good in the preseason as he has during rookie minicamp and the OTA practices and is named the starter, where does that leave Colt McCoy?

If he ends up becoming a backup for the Browns or even for another team, that wouldn’t be the worst situation in the world. For a young guy, being on a team and being one of only 64 guys in the country who is working as a quarterback in the NFL, is hardly a bad thing.

You’re gaining experience and your body is not deteriorating from taking those excessive hits. If you deserve to be in the league and you can make plays, you will get those reps and those opportunities on the back side of your career, like Steve Young got.

Young wasn’t happy when he began his NFL career at Tampa, after playing in the USFL, and then spent several years not playing behind Joe Montana in San Francisco. But because he wasn’t taking a pounding and his body didn’t get broken down, he was able to get those years back.

He handled himself the right way, he conducted himself the right way. More importantly, he learned the game and learned how to make plays and when he got his chance he made the most of it.

Be sure to catch Bernie Kosar’s regular appearances with Vic Carucci on “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford,” Monday through Friday, 6-7 p.m. ET, live on ESPN 850 WKNR and ClevelandBrowns.com


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One conclusion to draw about Weeden: He’s impressive

Posted by Vic Carucci on May 31, 2012 – 1:56 am

By Vic Carucci, Senior Editor

The burning question from the Browns’ OTA practice under the sizzling sun on Wednesday was this: Should we jump to conclusions because Brandon Weeden took the first-team snaps?

Pat Shurmur says we shouldn’t, no more than we should have concluded anything from Colt McCoy taking first-team snaps in last week’s workouts.

Fine. As the head coach, Shurmur needs to maintain as much of the structure of a quarterback competition as he can in the face of wide-spread assumptions that Weeden already is the winner based on his first-round status and general manager Tom Heckert’s recent public assertion that he expects Weeden to be “the guy” to fill the No. 1 spot.

He needs to keep Weeden motivated. He needs to keep McCoy and the other quarterbacks on the roster engaged with the process to push Weeden and to push themselves in case, for any reason, one of them has to be “the guy,” even temporarily.

Weeden also needs to work with different receivers and running backs, something that comes from being under center with the starters as opposed to the backups (although at this stage, some of those designations are subject to change).

But here is something that remained the same from last week and from the Browns’ rookie minicamp: Weeden threw the ball extremely well. He continued to show why he was a first-round pick and why the Browns were enamored with him enough to make him the No. 22 choice overall.

Weeden doesn’t disappoint. His passes are consistently accurate and tight. They leave his hand quickly and with just the right velocity for the right circumstances whether he is going long, short, or somewhere in between.

Sometimes, the receivers in practice were able to get good separation from defenders because of their speed, athleticism, and smart route-running. But sometimes, it was simply because Weeden got them the ball faster than defenders could get to them.

He also consistently throws a “catchable” pass. The ball regularly arrives where it is supposed to be, on the numbers, when it is supposed to be there. The receiver usually doesn’t have to break stride or do any extreme contorting or leaping to make the catch. He simply has to do what too often didn’t happen in 2011, and that’s hang onto it.

So far, the Browns’ pass-catchers have been hanging onto the majority of passes that Weeden delivers.

The bottom line is, since the first practice of rookie minicamp, Weeden has looked every bit like you expect a starting quarterback to look. And on Wednesday, he was the starter.

>>Be sure to tune in Monday through Friday, 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. ET, for “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford” on ESPN 850 WKNR or catch the live stream right here on ClevelandBrowns.com.

>>Have a question for “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford”? Ask me at Twitter.com/viccarucci


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During OTAs, it’s all about the details

Posted by Bernie Kosar on May 22, 2012 – 6:36 pm

By Bernie Kosar, Special Contributor to ClevelandBrowns.com

Here are some highlights from my latest appearance on “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford”:

The OTA workouts that the Browns began Tuesday are vital to their preparation for the season in a number of different ways.

And you appreciate the importance of these sessions so much more now after going through an offseason like last year, when you weren’t able to have them because of the lockout.

I think the main part of this stuff – especially this early, in late May and early June – is the ability to really learn the nuances of the offensive system and the details of the assignments of your given position.

As a quarterback, it starts with your sense of timing from under center, something that Brandon Weeden’s trying to get better at given that he was in the shotgun so much in college. It’s getting to throw that 12-yard speed out off a five-step drop from under center. It’s throwing against a top-notch NFL cornerback like Joe Haden, as opposed to an undrafted rookie free-agent defensive back that he saw during rookie minicamp. I think it’s also very important that he develops that rapport with his receivers.

I think, from the outset, you’d like to see some rapport between all of the quarterbacks and the receivers.

For Trent Richardson, not that it’s a live session with contact, but you can see how he handles and understands pass routes, pass protections, things of that nature.

With Travis Benjamin, a lot was said about his speed at rookie minicamp. Is he able to transfer that while going up against Joe Haden? And when he gets more of the offense and more plays, is he able to understand that? Is he able to handle press coverage?

We’re just expecting Mitchell Schwartz to just step in and start at right tackle. But is he able to handle the speed of NFL pass rushers? And for all of the offensive linemen, it’s all about footwork and angles.

Those little details of assignments and the mental part are the main things that most players and coaches want to get out of these OTAs.

Be sure to catch Bernie Kosar’s regular appearances with Vic Carucci on “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford,” Monday through Friday, 6-7 p.m. ET, live on ESPN 850 WKNR and ClevelandBrowns.com


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Minicamp provides confirmation of picks’ skills

Posted by Bernie Kosar on May 16, 2012 – 2:59 pm

By Bernie Kosar, Special Contributor to ClevelandBrowns.com

Here are some highlights from my latest appearance on “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford”:

It didn’t surprise me that Brandon Weeden had such a solid minicamp in terms of throwing the ball.

And, of course, you can’t forget that it is a non-contact environment and that a lot more goes into playing quarterback, or any position, when it’s live and the hitting’s going on.  But just in terms of being able to show confidence, show his ability to throw the ball, show his ability to handle some of things he’ll see from different teams and read defenses, I thought he performed exceptionally well.

Even without contact, Trent Richardson was able to display his potential to be a top-tier, workhorse back. That was something we saw with Peyton Hillis a few years ago when he had his magical season. He had the ability to come in contact with a defender and break the tackle and make yards after that.

Not to over-glorify or over-hype it, but I think you’d be hard-pressed to say that anybody in college football in the last couple years has run like Trent Richardson. He shows that rare ability to break tackles and get those yards after contact, which is now becoming an incredibly important statistic and quality that you look for with running backs.

You go into these minicamps hoping to see on your own practice field what you saw of these draft picks during their college careers, especially the high picks. So, from that standpoint, it’s just nice to kind of get confirmation of that in real life with your playbook, with your plays, doing it in your situation.

The other nice thing is seeing the guys’ intensity – intensity to play, intensity to be part of this team now, to pick up the offense and defense, and make the plays that you’re used to seeing or you expect to see come Sunday afternoon in the fall. And that was the case throughout all three days of minicamp.

Be sure to catch Bernie Kosar’s regular appearances with Vic Carucci on “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford,” Monday through Friday, 6-7 p.m. ET, live on ESPN 850 WKNR and ClevelandBrowns.com


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Weeden’s impressive passing looks like real deal

Posted by Vic Carucci on May 12, 2012 – 2:23 am

By Vic Carucci, Senior Editor

You can’t conclude a whole lot from a minicamp practice. A rookie minicamp offers even less fodder for conclusions.

Helmets, yes. Pads, no. Contact, accidental at the most.

The pace and tempo are nothing remotely close to what is found in an NFL game. But it’s something. It’s a starting point. It’s football’s version of sort of stretching before the workout (even though there is actually stretching before these minicamp practices).

And most of what it comes down to is an elongated passing drill. Sure, there are some running plays sprinkled into the mix. Sure, the players at other positions do what they and their coaches deem significant work on the field.

However, the practices only offer us a chance to make what we think is a substantive judgment in one area: How the quarterback throws the ball. Because regardless of the circumstances and no matter who is on the field and the manner in which they perform, a throw is a throw. You can determine its quality or lack thereof.

So I feel fairly comfortable in saying this about Browns first-round draft pick Brandon Weeden: He can throw a football extremely well. He can throw it hard or soft, fast or slow, and usually with considerable accuracy. He delivers an ultra-tight spiral that cuts through the air like a laser.

At one point during the morning practice, one of those spirals was traveling straight to where three of us were standing together on the sidelines. Truth was, one of us (probably me) would have likely have been struck by the ball before being able to step out of the way. Fortunately, Josh Cooper, an undrafted free agent who caught passes from Weeden at Oklahoma State, stepped in front of us at the last moment to make the grab.

I was mesmerized in the same way I was when Weeden fired passes through defensive traffic, when he connected on several nice deep outs, when he hooked up with his tight end in the seam.

I reminded myself that it was May, not September. I reminded myself that he was surrounded by other rookies, many of whom won’t make it to the final roster of the Browns or any NFL team for that matter. I reminded myself the weather was perfect, a sun-splashed day without a hint of wind. I reminded myself of everything that would force me to keep my enthusiasm about Weeden’s talent in check.

Still, your eyes know what they’ve seen, and what I saw was the big arm, the strong pocket presence, the quick decision-making. What I saw was what was advertised after the Browns made this 28-year-old rookie the 22nd overall pick of the draft last month.

“He reminds me of Bernie Kosar in the huddle, and that’s saying a lot,” Hanford Dixon told me later when we gathered to discuss the first day of minicamp on “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford.”

Yes, that is saying a lot.

But I have this feeling it just might not be saying too much.

>>Be sure to tune in Monday through Friday, 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. ET, for “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford” on ESPN 850 WKNR or catch the live stream right here on ClevelandBrowns.com.

>>Have a question for “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford”? Ask me at Twitter.com/viccarucci


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Minicamp can bring out the best in the rest

Posted by Bernie Kosar on May 9, 2012 – 2:13 pm

By Bernie Kosar, Special Contributor to ClevelandBrowns.com

Here are some highlights from my latest appearance on “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford”:

The focus on the Browns’ minicamp this weekend will no doubt be on Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden.

They’ll do about a million interviews. They’ll be all that anyone wants to talk about.

But the players that you really need to pay attention to are the lower-round picks and the undrafted free agents. We’ve talked a lot through the offseason about how many gifted and talented football players there are out there. And you don’t necessarily find them within the first 10 picks of the draft or the first 22 picks of the draft.

What coaches, scouts, and front-office people are really asking themselves at that first minicamp is whether there is another Josh Cribbs out there? Or is there another Victor Cruz out there? Or is one of our sixth-round draft picks another Ahtyba Rubin? And there will be guys on the field trying to make that sort of a statement, trying to make an impression to see if they could earn a roster spot and contribute at that level.

It won’t just be lower-round choices or undrafted rookies. There will be a few guys in this minicamp who are just there on tryouts. They’ll come in without any publicity or recognition, and because they literally have  a few days or even one day to stick with the team, they’ll try and do things out there that make them stand out.

The incumbent players won’t be part of this minicamp, but when they do start practicing with the rookies, they’re going to be looking for what I looked for when I was a veteran player. Because there’s not a lot of head-banging and physical contact, it’s tough to get the truest reads of some of the players.

But you can see how hungry these guys are. You can see how much they want to be out there and what level of expectation they have for themselves.

You want to see the confidence of not only wanting to do well, but expecting to do well.

Be sure to catch Bernie Kosar’s regular appearances with Vic Carucci on “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford,” Monday through Friday, 6-7 p.m. ET, live on ESPN 850 WKNR and ClevelandBrowns.com


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Richardson’s impact goes beyond running

Posted by Bernie Kosar on May 4, 2012 – 5:44 pm

By Bernie Kosar, Special Contributor to ClevelandBrowns.com

Here are some highlights from my latest appearance on “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford”:

There’s no doubt about the type of impact a great running back can have on a team’s success.

You look at Marshall Faulk when Kurt Warner came to St. Louis and the Rams won the Super Bowl. You look at Adrian Peterson when Brett Favre went to the NFC Championship game with the Vikings.

And I don’t want to put the pressure on Trent Richardson, but I believe he has the opportunity to be talked about in the same breath as those types of running backs. He has that many God-given gifts, abilities, along with tremendous passion for the game.

But when you have guys like that it makes defensive coordinators and defenses play that eighth man in the box, play that extra guy up there. It puts single coverage outside. It significantly simplifies pass defenses.

So, in turn, it actually makes it easier for your quarterback because he gets easier defenses to read. He gets one-on-one coverage, and then he has the ability to run the ball and be on the positive side in down-and-distance situations. And Trent is the kind of running back who doesn’t have to leave the field.

I’m a big fan of Trent’s coach at Alabama, Nick Saban, in terms of how he coaches and teaches his guys. His guys are NFL-ready and for a superstar runner like Trent to be not only a constant threat as a runner but to also have the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and pass protect is something special.

To have someone back there who can pick up the linebackers, handle the blitzes, chip on offensive linemen and then release gives you the chance to play more of a well-rounded, physical game. And I really believe it makes the whole team a more physical, tougher – a more Cleveland-area type of approach.

I just think it’s going to add a lot of benefits to the team.

Be sure to catch Bernie Kosar’s regular appearances with Vic Carucci on “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford,” Monday through Friday, 6-7 p.m. ET, live on ESPN 850 WKNR and ClevelandBrowns.com


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Immediate impact key to judging Weeden

Posted by Bernie Kosar on May 1, 2012 – 1:44 am

By Bernie Kosar, Special Contributor to ClevelandBrowns.com

Here are some highlights from my latest appearance on “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford”:

You can’t underestimate the importance of acquiring a potential franchise quarterback, as the Browns did by making Brandon Weeden the 22nd overall pick of the draft.

That’s especially important for the Browns fans, given the last 13 years and the state of the record.

Does the fact he is 28 years old possibly take away from his ability to be a long-term answer? In a perfect world, I’d like to have someone in place for 10 to 15 years.

But at the end of the day, this world is not perfect and you have to adjust. And the next five years, the next couple of years, this pick definitely upgrades us and gives us a chance to be better and deeper at the quarterback position.

Marc Trestman, head coach of the Canadian Football League’s Montreal Alouettes and a guy I really respect and who had a big influence on my life professionally and personally, was one of the guys who worked out and prepared Weeden for the Senior Bowl, the Combine, and the draft. He loves Weeden’s ability to throw the ball – his release, his footwork, his intelligence, and his passion for the game. He’s a big believer in Brandon Weeden.

In addition to Weeden’s age, a lot has also been made of the fact he played professional baseball before establishing himself as a top quarterback at Oklahoma State, and the fact he played in a spread offense in college. The spread offense that Oklahoma State ran throws a lot of glorified running plays in the form of bubble screens and things of that nature.

But at the end of the day, Weeden went to the Senior Bowl from a pro-style offense and he’s able to make the pro-style throws. I don’t think the fact he played in a spread offense in college will be a problem.

And I think the fact that, in college, he has been able to throw the ball with some velocity in tough situations is going to allow him to progress in the pros.

Be sure to catch Bernie Kosar’s regular appearances with Vic Carucci on “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford,” Monday through Friday, 6-7 p.m. ET, live on ESPN 850 WKNR and ClevelandBrowns.com


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