COMMENTARY | The 2013 Cleveland Browns went 0-2 with Brandon Weeden starting at quarterback. They then won two straight when Brian Hoyer replaced Weeden, who sprained his thumb in the team's second defeat. Those are factual statements.
It is apparent that those running the Browns, who lost Hoyer for the season last week due to a torn ACL, did not believe that a free agent quarterback such as Josh Freeman or David Carr would have given the team any better shot at winning games than does Weeden. Thus, the second-year pro who soon turns 30-years old has been given at least one more game to prove that he can lead a NFL offense. Cleveland's records with and without Weeden show that he will need to emulate Hoyer in certain ways if both he and the Browns are to be successful over the next couple of months.
How Brandon Weeden needs to be Brian Hoyer: The obvious
Hoyer releases the football quicker than does Weeden. This was known during the summer, during preseason games and also throughout the first month of the season. Knowing about it and doing something about it, however, are not one and the same.
This isn't just an issue regarding the amount of time Weeden has inside the pocket. Go back and rewatch the Thursday night game against the Buffalo Bills. With Hoyer at quarterback, the team's offensive line was a cohesive unit, one that allowed the QB to make plays with his arm and his feet. That all changed when Weeden took the field. It was almost as if the o-line had given up.
That's not a coincidence or an imagined event. Guys in the trenches know if they are going to have to hold off oncoming pass rushers for an additional "x" seconds if a certain quarterback is playing. That absolutely affects how they perform on the field. Weeden needs to help his offensive line as much as that unit must help its quarterback.
How Brandon Weeden needs to be Brian Hoyer: His guy
An elite quarterback has a safety net, that one guy he searches for when his confidence has taken a hit or he finds himself in trouble. Eli Manning, for example, wouldn't have won two Super Bowls had the New York Giants never signed Plaxico Burress. For Weeden, that player is tight end Jordan Cameron. The Cleveland QB targeted Cameron a total of 20 times in the first two games of the season.
Weeden somewhat got away from that against the Bills, and that shouldn't happen again.
In Cameron, Weeden has a dependable target who, most importantly, is not at all a turnover risk if the right passes are sent toward the TE. Just as Manning could and did with Burress, Weeden can merely put the ball up high for Cameron in murky situations and know that only one of two things will happen; that Cameron will come down with it, or that the pass will harmlessly hit the ground for an incompletion.
Knowing that a giveaway is less likely does wonders for a quarterback. As does living to fight another down. Weeden and Cameron resuming and growing their partnership will help eliminate any existing confidence issues that have plagued the former Oklahoma State star since he entered the league.
Hoyer looked for Cameron 23 times in Cleveland's September wins. The two connected for 16 receptions and four touchdowns in those games. Weeden should target Cameron no fewer than ten times per contest. It's the key to his, and ultimately to Cleveland's, success.
For more: Weeden's career on the line
Zac has been following Cleveland sports since a little before his birth, and thus his heart breaks a little more with every year. He has been covering the Cleveland Browns, New York Giants and the NFL for Yahoo Sports since 2010
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