BEREA - Brandon Weeden's biggest problem five games into his rookie season is that he can't forget the past.
There seems to be times when the Browns rookie quarterback thinks he's still slinging passes to Justin Blackmon at Oklahoma State against overmatched defenses. The difference now is that NFL defenders actually contest passes. What worked in college might be a recipe for disaster on a Sunday afternoon in New York.
The challenge facing coach Pat Shurmur is to re-program Weeden so that he's able to walk the fine line between aggressiveness and high-risk actions. If he's successful, the Browns might win their first game of the season.
The Associated Press
Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden takes his helmet off during Sunday’s game against the Giants.
"I don't have to be as aggressive as I have been in the past," Weeden said. "I need to be smarter. I need to take what they're giving me. When you're in college and people are open all the time, it's easy to be aggressive because guys are open all the time. In this league guys aren't always open."
Weeden is slowly starting to learn the lesson. Two painful interceptions in a loss to the New York Giants were enough for him to pull in the reins a little bit on his aggressive tendencies.
"It was third-and-1 the other day," Weeden said. "Throw it out of bounds and let Phil (Dawson) kick a field-goal and move on. It's an ego thing. I need to get rid of the ego and take what they're giving me and move on. Don't be as stubborn."
Weeden rolled to his right and overthrew Jordan Norwood on the play, resulting in an interception by safety Stevie Jones. Weeden didn't have much help. Josh Gordon ran the wrong route, which directed a defender into the area in which Norwood ran his route.
Still, Weeden made a bad throw that was a momentum-changer.
"Regardless that doesn't matter," Weeden said. "That's still on me."
Despite the interceptions, Weeden's strong right arm and his willingness to throw vertical are pleasant additions to the offense. He's shown progress since a putrid, no-touchdown, four-interception performance in the season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles.
"You continue to inspire him to do the right thing with the football," Shurmur said. "You want a guy that's aggressive with the ball because you want to squeeze out as much offense as you can every play. You want to balance it with efficiency. It's a fine line.
"Now, how do you go from there? What you do is continue to practice and work and you keep going through all the situations and progressions, and then he gets a feel for the guys he's throwing to."
The proof of improvement since the Eagles' game is in the statistics. In the four games that followed the 17-16 loss in the opener, Weeden has a decent 78.8 passer rating. He's completed 59.8 percent of his throws despite numerous drops. His average of 7.0 yards per completion would place him in the middle of the pack in the NFL.
The key now is to continue to show improvement while walking that line between aggressiveness and stupidity.
"You don't want to take away aggressiveness, Weeden said. "It's difficult because I want to make a play. I want big-chunk, explosive plays. We have the capability of doing that. In this league you hear people saying it every week that it's a matter of one or two plays that decide a game. You have to be smart."
Weeden is learning that lesson the hard way.