BEREA - Nine games into his rookie season would seem to be long enough to make Brandon Weeden wary of blitzes, even though he's yet to face the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Strangely, the Browns quarterback hasn't had to deal with a barrage of blitzes. The Baltimore Ravens blitzed about half the time, but other than that it's unusually quiet on the blitz front.
This strange behavior can be explained easily. It has nothing to do with defensive coordinators fearing that Weeden will pick them apart. It does have everything to do with coordinators knowing that the Browns offensive line is one of the best in the NFL at protecting the quarterback.
The Associated Press
In this Nov. 4, 2012 photo, Cleveland Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden scrambles against the Baltimore Ravens in the first quarter of an NFL game in Cleveland.
The Browns are fifth in the NFL in fewest sacks allowed with 14. That's an impressive total when taking into account that Weeden is still learning how to go through his reads quicker.
"As an offensive line the last few years we have done a nice job of picking up the blitz," tackle Joe Thomas said. "When a team blitzes and doesn't get home, a defensive coordinator is going to be very cautious calling it again. It really exposes the secondary to a lot of things when they have to play man coverage or they have one or two fewer guys because they're sending more guys in the blitz."
Weeden, who enters the final seven games of the season with a 67.9 passer rating, gives all the credit to the line. Center Alex Mack, guard Shawn Lauvao and Thomas we're starters last season. John Greco has replaced injured left guard Jason Pinkston, and rookie Mitchell Schwartz has stepped in at right tackle.
"A majority of that goes to those guys," Weeden said. "Those guys are doing a great job of keeping me off the ground. We are getting the ball out quick, but it all starts with those guys up front.
"The offensive line has played outstanding all year. Mitch has come in and played great. He's improved each game. He's the smartest guy in this locker room, and it's not even close. You tell him something once, and he doesn't forget it."
Shurmur's post-bye message to Weeden was succinct and to the point don't throw interceptions. Weeden has thrown 12 interceptions to go along with nine touchdown passes.
"That's kind of been my priority since I played pee-wee football," Weeden said. "My aggressive mindset sometimes gets me in trouble, but I'm not going to take that away from myself.
"I agree that I have to take care of the football, but guys that are aggressive, that's one category they unfortunately may have a couple more than they'd like. Sometimes making that aggressive throw sparks a drive."
It's doubtful that Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan will hold back on blitz opportunities. Ryan, the Browns defensive coordinator for coach Eric Mangini in 2009 and 2010, never met a blitz he didn't like.
"He has personnel that can get after the passer," Weeden said. "Obviously, (DeMarcus) Ware is one of the best defensive linemen/linebackers in the league. I don't really know the guy (Ryan), but I see him as an aggressive guy, and that's kind of the way he calls plays.
"He wants to put pressure on you. He wants to switch it up and give you different looks. I expect him to keep doing what he does. He's good at what he does and he has good players to help him do that."
It will be another learning experience for Weeden.