Weeden begins second chance

CLEVELAND – Brandon Weeden was asked if he feels likes he’s been given a mulligan in his football career.

Considering that Weeden is back in the saddle at quarterback following a knee injury to Brian Hoyer, there’s no other way to view it. Hoyer had taken a stranglehold on the job and, as it turned out, only an injury was going to unseat him.

Weeden’s second chance earning the confidence of coach Rob Chudzinski starts today when the Browns host the Detroit Lions in a battle of 3-2 teams at First Energy Stadium. The Browns have won three straight and enter the day tied with the Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens for first place in the AFC North Division.

“Things just happen and unfortunately for Brian the way things shook out, you never know how it’s going to work,” Weeden said. “Like I said the last couple weeks, I prepared like I was going to play and I prepared like the starter just in case something did happen.

“That’s the role of being a quarterback, whatever position, first, second, third. You just never know when you’re going to get your number called, and fortunately I prepared well enough and was able to do enough to help the team win the game (against Buffalo).”

If Weeden has proven anything in slightly more than one season in the NFL, it’s that he can’t carry a team alone. As of now there are too many holes in his game to convince teammates that he’s the long-term answer.

The bigger question in coming weeks concerns the ability of the surrounding cast to carry a larger load. The defense, which is fourth overall (seventh against the pass and eighth against the rush), needs to continue playing to that level. The offensive line must do a better job of run blocking for the committee of backs Chudzinski might deploy.

It’s been a mix of good and bad for the ground game, with more negative results than positive. Willis McGahee has added a spark to the inside game at times, but this line is clearly better at pass protection than clearing paths on the ground.

Quite a bit has changed since Weeden last started, in a week two loss to the Baltimore Ravens. For starters, the record is much better than 0-2. Playing in a division with average talent, there’s no reason why the Browns can’t challenge for the title, assuming Weeden plays to a certain level of consistency.

“There’s a lot of excitement,” Weeden said. “Our main focus is keep doing what we’re doing and keep it rolling. Our focus is on Detroit and then whoever we’re playing next.

“We’ve stayed within the week. That goes back to Chud. Chud does an unbelievable job of keeping us really dialed in each and every week and focused on what’s in front of us. Guys listen and stay the course.”

It will be interesting to see if the game plan and resulting calls of coordinator Norv Turner will be much different with Weeden at quarterback instead of Hoyer. Hoyer brought a quicker release and fewer sacks, but Weeden brings the ability to stretch defenses with his strong throwing arm.

“I don’t think there’s anything noticeable that he would call differently,” Chudzinski said. “The things that we’re doing we’ll do to give Brandon and our whole offense the best possible chance to be successful. That’s always the way that we’ve approached things.”

The Browns could be feeling a lot better about their fortunes later today, or they could be realizing how much Hoyer is missed.