As Cleveland Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden watched the game tape from his team’s Week 4 matchup against the Ravens at his house on Tuesday night, he couldn’t believe what he was seeing on his iPad screen.
“I was doing some uncharacteristic things, missed some throws,” Weeden told Cleveland area reporters on Wednesday. “We had some drops. We’re not making the same mistakes we were back then which is good. We’ve come a long way since then. That’s encouraging. After watching it last night, it’s very encouraging.”
Weeden and the Browns will get another crack at the Ravens and their 24th-ranked pass defense on Sunday afternoon. In their first meeting, a 23-16 Ravens win in Baltimore, Weeden threw for 320 yards, but it took him a career-high 52 attempts to get there. He also threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown by Ravens cornerback Cary Williams, a play that Ravens coach John Harbaugh said was the difference in the game.
But since then, Weeden has tossed a pair of passing touchdowns in three of his past four games. The other, Sunday's 7-6 win over the San Diego Chargers, was played in rain and gusts of wind. Overall, in a four-game stretch in which the Browns went 2-2, Weeden completed 75 of his 132 attempts for 915 yards and six touchdowns. He now ranks 12th in the NFL and second among rookies with 1,912 passing yards this season.
“It’s been really encouraging with Brandon," Browns left tackle Joe Thomas said. "He’s a kid that has really improved and played better every single week so far. Hopefully, we can continue that growth and that progress, because he’s come a long way already from where he was at the beginning of the season.”
Yes, even a 29-year-old rookie quarterback can learn new tricks.
“That’s just experience,” said Weeden, who turned 29 two weeks ago. “Game reps are irreplaceable. When you’re able to get out there and make mistakes in the heat of the battle, and you’re able to see it on tape, it makes you grow up pretty quick.”
His stat line against the Chargers wasn't pretty -- he completed 40.7 percent of his passes for 129 yards -- but Weeden showed much more poise than he did early in his rookie season. He has also cut down on the turnovers, throwing just three interceptions in his past four games after throwing seven in his first four.
Weeden isn’t the only one who has noticed his development. Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs said that the Browns are building something with Weeden and running back Trent Richardson, who were both selected in the first round of April’s NFL draft. And Harbaugh said on Monday that he also sees a young team that is “on the rise” with Weeden, who at 28 was the oldest first-round pick in NFL history, starting to get comfortable under center.
“I mean, he can spin it, and I’m sure that’s why they drafted him, because they felt like he could handle the conditions there on Lake Erie,” Harbaugh said. “So they’re getting better, their receivers are getting better. The kid from Baylor, [rookie receiver Josh Gordon], is really improving and is becoming a big-play threat for them. So, they’re just a good, young team, and they’re on the rise.”
The playoffs are a longshot for the Browns, who will enter Sunday’s game with a 2-6 record. But a win over their AFC North rivals would be a strong piece of evidence of how far Weeden and the rebuilding Browns have come since the erratic Week 4 performance that the quarterback watched on his iPad the other night.