CLEVELAND – Rob Chudzinski better put the Browns’ quarterback competition to rest as soon as possible.
If he doesn’t name Brandon Weeden the starter, people will think he’s gone crazy.
Weeden staged a second straight impressive preseason performance in the 24-6 win over the Detroit Lions Thursday at First Energy Stadium. Weeden completed 8-of-12 passes for 117 yards and two touchdowns to tight end Jordan Cameron, finishing a short night of work with a 137.8 passer rating.
Weeden’s collective rating in wins over the St. Louis Rams and Lions is an off-the-chart 139.8. A perfect rating is 158.0.
As good as the news was about Weeden’s showing, Chudzinski awoke this morning having probably lost running back Dion Lewis for the season with a fractured fibula. Guard Jason Pinkston suffered an ankle sprain and will be sidelined indefinitely and rookie linebacker Barkevious Mingo bruised a lung and spent the night at the Cleveland Clinic.
“It was a tough night from an injury perspective, obviously,” Chudzinski said. “But we made some strides, and from a performance standpoint I’m happy. That’s the game. Guys get injured and other guys get opportunities and have to step up. That’s what we’ll have to do.”
Chudzinski surprisingly said the competition at quarterback remained close before Thursday’s game. There’s no way he can look at the situation the same, unless he wants to continue playing mind games with Weeden.
Weeden had success working with receiver Josh Gordon and Cameron. Gordon caught three passes for 72 yards, including a one-handed grab on a 34-yard play. Cameron had three receptions for 42 yards, including touchdowns of 10 and 5 yards as the Browns opened a 17-3 halftime lead.
“We have a long ways to go, but those guys (Weeden and Cameron) are starting to get a little bit of a chemistry together,” Chudzinski said.
The first-team offense was efficient in both games. The unit got an added boost with the first appearance of running back Trent Richardson, who had six carries for 33 yards.
“I feel real good, especially being out there with my team,” Richardson said. “The offense, defense and special teams, everybody is out there doing the big things.”
The offense looked better in both preseason games than it did during practices. Weeden appears comfortable with all his throws. His confidence level is sky high right now.
“We started off a little slow,” Weeden said. “Offensively, we had some nice runs. It was a good start for us. We have to keep building off of it and continue to build and go forward.”
Cameron’s emergence was a welcome sight for an offense that parted ways with tight end Benjamin Watson. In his third season, Cameron has impressive athletic ability but has yet to show he can stay healthy and contribute.
“He had a heck of a night,” Weeden said. “He had some great catches down there; some tough catches. I know he has that in him. He has a ton of ability. I’m excited to see him play as well as he did. He’s going to be a huge asset for this offense.”
Weeden was pleased to have Richardson in the huddle. Richardson sat out the Rams’ game with a sore shin.
“What he adds to the offense between the tackles, catching the ball,” Weeden said. “He’s dynamic. He’s going to make this offense better. It’s nice having him back out there.”
The injury bug hit early when guard John Greco was blocked into the back of Pinkston’s legs on a 17-yard run by Richardson. Lewis, who rushed for 33 yards on five first-half carries, was carted off in the second half. Mingo, the sixth overall draft pick, left in the first quarter without having played a down on defense. Kicker Brandon Bogotay suffered a groin injury in the second half.
A 43-yard field goal Bogotay and Cameron’s two touchdowns sparked the Browns to a 17-0 lead. David Akers kicked a 48-yard field goal for the Lions in the second quarter.
Browns quarterback Jason Campbell played from near the end of the first half into the fourth period. He was 12-of-14 for 106 yards and a 14-yard scoring pass to Brandon Jackson.
Harvard Rugland kicked a 33-yard field goal in the third period for the Lions.
The Browns play at the Indianapolis Colts Saturday, Aug. 24.