Browns QB Preview: Weeden’s Time to Step Up

The Cleveland Browns officially kick off their first training camp under new head coach Rob Chudzinski and his staff July 25. We will break down each position in the weeks leading up to the start of camp with the players currently on the roster. 
The first position we take a look at is quarterback, a position that has been almost completely revamped under the Joe Banner/Mike Lombardi regime as Colt McCoy was jettisoned to the 49ers in a trade and then Thaddeus Lewis was released after the signing of Brian Hoyer.
Quarterbacks – Brandon Weeden, Jason Campbell and Brian Hoyer
Weeden (6-3, 220, 29, 2nd year) The only returning quarterback from last year’s roster, Weeden is going to be given every opportunity to succeed in the Chudzinski/Norv Turner offensive system.
Derek Anderson turned in a surprised Pro Bowl season in 2007 when Chudzinski was the Browns offensive coordinator, and Weeden could try to follow that example. Weeden could arguably have a better supporting cast than Anderson did that season with the emergence of the running game led by Trent Richardson and the receiving corps with Greg Little, Josh Gordon, Travis Benjamin, Davone Bess, David Nelson and a strong offensive line. Kellen Winslow had a big year at tight end in 2007 and it’s unclear if the trio of Jordan Cameron, Gary Barnidge and Kellen Davis will be able to produce as much as Winslow did. But all considered, Weeden does have weapons at his disposal.

Weeden started in all 15 games that he played in as a rookie and passed for 3,385 yards on 297-of-517 passes attempted (57.4 pct.) with 14 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. His QB rating was 72.6. His yardage totals were the most by a Browns rookie in the team’s history.

He has been ecstatic about playing in the vertical passing offense that the Browns are using and it appears the coaching staff will play to his strengths employing more use of the shotgun formation.
Chudzinski offered his assessment on Weeden at the conclusion of minicamp: “I think Brandon has done a nice job, to this point. Everything we’ve asked him to do. Certainly, it hasn’t been perfect, but having to adjust to Norv yelling at him and making the adjustments and corrections, you’ve seen progress.”
Lombardi wasn’t high on Weeden while he was an NFL analyst on NFL Network, but it is believed that Chudzinski and Turner saw enough potential in the second-year quarterback to persuade the front office to give him another shot in 2013.

Campbell  (6-5, 230, 31, 9th year) — Campbell has started 71 of his career 77 games, and he has played in the system that Turner is running with the Browns. He is described as a player who doesn’t need many reps in practice, but can still step in and be productive. 

Campbell was a first-round draft choice of the Redskins (25th overall) in the 2005 NFL Draft from Auburn. He has completed 1,328 of 2,182 career passes (60.9%) for 14,682 yards with 76 touchdowns, 52 interceptions and an 82.5 passer rating. Campbell has a plus-24 touchdown-interception ratio, and his 2.4 career interception percentage is tied for eighth-best in the NFL since 2005.  

His best season was 2009 – his last season in Washington – when he was 327-of-507 for 3,618 yards with 20 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. His rating was 86.4.
In the first five years of his career (2005-09) with the Redskins, he was one of four quarterbacks in franchise history to throw for 3,000 yards in back-to-back seasons (3,245 in 2008 and 3,618 in 2009). He became the franchise leader in career completion percentage (61.2) and his passer rating of 82.3 was second-best in Redskins annals. He also established a team record with a streak of 271 consecutive passes without an interception, spanning from 2007-08 and the fifth-longest streak ever in the NFL at the time. 
Campbell was traded to Oakland prior to the 2010 season and spent two years with the Raiders. In those two seasons, he started 18 of his 19 contests and threw for 3,557 yards with 19 touchdowns. In 2011, he opened the first six contests and led Oakland to a 4-2 record before a broken collarbone against the Browns ended his season. 
So far he has been what the Browns expected when they signed him as an unrestricted free agent.
“I am pleased with Jason,” Chudzinski said. “He is everything we had hoped for from a leadership standpoint and a guy that can come in and doesn’t need every single rep in practice. He’s been in the system before and he understands what he’s doing.”

Hoyer (6-2, 215, 27, 5th year) – Hoyer spent his first three seasons in the NFL backing up Tom Brady in New England. After being released in training camp in 2012, Hoyer sat out most of last season before signing with the Steelers. After being released by the Steelers he was immediately picked up by the Cardinals and started his first NFL game in the season finale against the 49ers. He completed 19 of 34 passes for 225 yards with a touchdown and an interception in a 27-13 loss. He was 30 for 53 for 330 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions on the season. 
In his first four NFL seasons, Hoyer has appeared in just 15 games completing 57 of 96 passes for 616 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions and a rating of 72.2.

Lombardi has been high on Hoyer from his days with the Patriots, and he could be in the mix for playing time should Weeden and Campbell falter.
Chudzinski has been happy with the way Hoyer has picked up the offense since arriving.
“Brian coming in late and in a short time and he has a real good fee,” Chudzinski said. “He’s been around and has been in a number of systems and knows what we’re trying to get done. I like the direction of this group. We’ve got a ways to go but we’re on the right track.” 

Summary: The 2013 season is about Weeden. 

It is his chance to prove he can be the Browns quarterback for the next few seasons. He will turn 30 in October and is now in a system that appears to play to his strengths. He has weapons behind a strong offensive line with a potentially strong running game.  Five times a running back in Turner’s offense has won the NFL rushing title. The receiving corps should be much more productive with the experience of the young receivers and the addition of a couple of veterans.

Chudzinski is very impressed with the group of quarterbacks the Browns have.
“That group, overall, is one of the best groups I’ve been around in terms of chemistry and helping each other out and it’s really good,” Chudzinski said. “There’s a really good vibe in that room.”
Chudzinski has not named Weeden the starting quarterback, rather choosing to make him earn the position. He said ultimately who will be under center when the regular season begins, will be based on production. 
“I think all of those guys have progressed,” Chudzinski said. “When we get out there in pads and we see them in situations, we’ll be looking for improvement there. It will be about production.”
If Weeden and the other quarterbacks don’t produce in 2013, there will be a lot of talk about drafting a quarterback high in 2014.
(Next: We’ll take a look at the Browns running backs)