10/08/2013 02:06 PM
Brandon Weeden's teammates have a message for him as he steps back into the full-time starting job: "Just trust us.''
It started with Josh Gordon's pep talk during Thursday night's 37-24 victory over the Bills and continued in the locker room Monday on the first day of Life After Brian Hoyer, who's out for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
After Weeden overthrew two receivers on his first two attempts and then went four-and-out on his next drive to a chorus of boos from Browns fans, Gordon pulled him aside and set him straight.
"We all talked to him — ‘Just relax, settle down, try to get us the ball out quickly as possible, let us try to make a play, quit thinking as much and just let it go,'' Gordon said. "I said, 'think a little less, just react, go out there and have fun with it -- just trust us. He did exactly that and we went out there and made the plays.''
Left tackle Joe Thomas, who's witnessed Weeden get sacked 16 times in his three starts, echoed Gordon's sentiments about getting the ball quickly to his skill players.
“It’s just a matter of trusting your receivers and trusting your arm and throwing it based on what you see coverage-wise," Thomas said. "That’s how it is throughout the NFL. You see some guys that try to scramble and make plays with their feet and extend plays and take sacks. That’s just in their make-up.
"For Brandon, the best thing he can do is read the coverage, be confident. He’s a smart guy. He studies hard. We've got great receivers, so throw it to the guy you think is going to be open and just trust it.''
Players such as tight end Jordan Cameron and backup quarterback Jason Campbell, who was inactive for the game, also got in Weeden's ear during the game.
"I think a lot of us were,'' said Cameron. "We let him know we have confidence in him and we know he can get it done.''
Now that Hoyer is out, Weeden's teammates -- and coaches -- want him to know they expect him to keep the train rolling. The Browns have won three straight heading into Sunday's visit from the 3-2 Lions, and are tied for first in the AFC North with the Ravens and Bengals. It's the latest into the season the Browns have been in first since they were tied with the Steelers at 3-2 in 1995.
"Nothing's changed,'' said Cameron. "We've still got a goal of being one of the better teams and trying to win the division and we're going to strive for that. We have a great level of confidence. I know I do. I know we believe in him and the receivers do.
"This game, he showed us a lot. He came in without really preparing at all to be the quarterback and made big plays in big moments in the game.''
Added Thomas: “Everybody is very comfortable and confident that Brandon is more than capable and he’s going to do a great job. He’s got a whole season of starting under his belt plus the first two games of this year and all of training camp so there’s plenty of confidence and a high level of comfort among the guys on offense.”
Gordon, who caught a 37-yard TD pass from Weeden against the Bills, doesn't believe that the momentum will follow Hoyer out the door.
"We're definitely heartbroken for him,'' said Gordon. "It’s rough for him, because he was really fighting and battling. But I think we’re definitely going to maintain and try to stay on course with Brandon. I don’t think we lost a step at all. We're we’re just going to persevere through it and push on.''
He asserted that Weeden, 5-12 as a starter, has the gun to power Norv Turner's downfield scheme.
"He can definitely bring it,'' Gordon said. "He's got an arm on him and we're guys that can stretch the field and go downfield in this offense. Norv's going to call it up and we’ve got to make the plays as wide receivers and running backs as well. The defense is one of the best in the NFL right now and I haven’t even really seen a defense hardly better than that, except for a few teams.''
He added that it's a misconception that Hoyer was the reason for his fast start -- 18 catches, 303 yards and two TDs in three games.
"I think it’s really just the offense that’s making wide receivers just look phenomenal out there," he said. "You can go out there and catch the ball and you just feel like there’s more to your game. Just the fact there’s more routes to run.''
It was Weeden who rifled five TD passes to Gordon last year -- and now six of his seven overall. Many have been of the "go deep'' and ask questions later variety.
"We tend to do that a lot and it works out,'' said Gordon. "Sometimes it’s not going to look very pretty. It looks like it's almost lucky at some points. (But) that’s what’s involved in a lot of the games -- a lot of luck and a lot of just trust and ability. I’ve told him that, just throw it up there, let me and Greg (Little) go out there and make plays, and (we) made big plays this past Thursday.''
Of course, all of the skill players will have to get reacquainted with Weeden's fastball.
"Brandon definitely has that baseball arm on him," said Gordon. "He can throw it harder than probably anybody I’ve caught the ball with, probably next to (Robert Griffin III) in practice, and they’re about the same.
"You definitely have to watch it in from his hand. You've got to see it coming and if anything get some new gloves.''
Still, Gordon, said, they're all pros and "you've just got to catch it, period. We've caught them before, but the two weeks he was out, we didn't see it, so now he's back in there and you've got to get used it to it.''
"The ball comes, you catch the ball,'' he said. "I don't think there's much difference in velocity. The ball's in the air, go make a play. We've been doing this for a long time.''
Coach Rob Chudzinski acknowledged that Weeden's 16 sacks are a concern, with Lions tackle Ndamukong Suh visiting on Sunday.
"We've been taking steps in improving in that area,'' said Chudzinski. "I think with a week of work, Brandon will be more comfortable and have a little less of the rust. Hopefully, all of those things will factor in. This certainly is a tough team that we’re playing and a team with a great defensive front and great pass rush.”
So why is Chudzinski confident Weeden will keep the streak alive?
“Well, because we have no other choice,'' he said. "That’s what we’re going to do. Everybody that plays, regardless of your position, we expect to do well. There’s no difference in my expectations for Brandon.”
Weeden will be back at home, where the fans gave him the business before he rallied the Browns to the 37-24 victory.
"I don’t think it rattled him at all,'' said Gordon. "I think it’s hard for anybody to hear that, because you’re out there trying to do your job, and you think the fans will support you. But mentally he's mature enough to handle that and he went out there and won that game. He turned those boos into cheers. We're proud of him and I hope the fans are too.''