Cleveland Browns 2013 Breakout Candidate: Brandon Weeden
Brandon Weeden stepped right in as starting quarterback for the Cleveland Browns last season as a rookie, and started 15 games prior to sitting out the season finale due to right shoulder injury. He experienced the inconsistency expected from a rookie signal caller, even one of a non-traditional age since he’ll turn 30 in October, and threw for 3,385 yards with 14 touchdowns and 17 interceptions along with a 57.4 percent completion rate.
The Browns will have a new head coach this year, as former Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski replaces the fired Pat Shurmur. Chudzinski has hired Norv Turner, who was finally fired as head coach of the San Diego Chargers after a few years of speculation, as his offensive coordinator. Weeden may or may not be Cleveland’s quarterback long-term, but the new coaching regime looks fully committed to him for this season.
Cleveland, at least theoretically, upgraded their situation behind Weeden by signing Jason Campbell and Brian Hoyer in free agency this offseason. After some early speculation that he could push Weeden for the starting job during training camp, Campbell seems to have fallen to the background and Hoyer does not have enough of an NFL resume to be a serious candidate to start Week 1.
Despite being 6’4″ tall, Weeden led league in batted balls last season with 21 (via Pro Football Focus.com), which can be partially blamed on the three-step drops of Shurmur’s West Coast offense and Turner has also put some focus on speeding up his mechanics during offseason work. Turner’s offense is also fairly vertically-inclined in the passing game, which should mean more five and seven-step drops while also allowing Weeden to put his arm strength on display more often.
Time will tell if Weeden will ever become one of the best quarterbacks in the league, but having competent offensive minds around can only benefit him. The Browns don’t have a lot of top skill position talent in place, and wide receiver Josh Gordon’s two-game suspension to start the season does not help that, but Turner will surely do everything he can to put Weeden in a position to succeed and I like the second-year quarterback’s chances to show significant improvement this season.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.