BEREA, Ohio--Brandon Weeden is confident that the work he put in over the off-season will start to show up as the Browns open their preseason Thursday night against the Rams. Weeden is expected to play the first quarter, but he has some specific goals he would like to accomplish.
"I want to be able to string together consecutive good plays, string together a couple of good drives and just get the feel of the game," Weeden said after Wednesday's indoor practice. "It's a little bit different than practice, obviously, there is going to be some emotion, a lot more adrenaline. I just want to put together a couple of good drives and just manage the game and do the things I need to do to move the ball."
Weeden said his personal goal is to increase his completion percentage this season. Last year, he completed just 57.4 percent of his passes.
"(Increase) that completion percentage," he said. "You have to get completions, whatever it might be first down or third down, you have to get completions.
"We have great backs and guys underneath that can catch the ball and make plays," he said. "Again, it's about managing the offense and doing my part in moving the football and throw the ball accurately, go through my progressions and get a better understanding of the offense. All that ends up in more completions."
Weeden has worked on his footwork and trying to get the ball out of his hands quicker this year and he thinks he's getting better.
"I think I've made pretty good strides," he said. "I've done a lot of stuff like jump roping, doing drills before practice. Just being conscious about it. If you just think about being faster in the drills that carries over into the team reps."
Weeden said he has a good feel for the offense at this point of the preseason.
"Knowing where to go and getting the ball out quickly and getting the ball into those guys hands as quickly as possible, it makes it easier on the guys up front," he said. "It's really set in stone in where to go with the football depending on coverage, so you have to know where to go with the football. If you can, it allows you to get the ball out quickly, while at the same time taking some shots. Those couple of things and we have to be good on third down. Last year, we weren't very good on third down. I think if we can become a good third down football team, that's how you put together long drives and give your defense a break and allow you to score touchdowns instead of kicking field goals."
Weeden thinks the game is slowing down for him, but the game is still moving at a high rate of speed. He's anxious to see as he starts his second season.
"I don't know if it will ever be in slow motion, these guys are too fast for that," he said. "But my understanding of the offense and where to start in the progressions and where to go with the football will help slow it down. You still have to react and play fast because it's just fast on the other side of the ball. Those guys are paid a lot of money to run fast and hit hard. It's hard to know until you get into the games because practice can be deceiving at times, so we'll see."
The offense had trouble in the Family Night scrimmage last Saturday and has seemed to lag behind the defense in training camp, but Weeden isn't worried.
"We're making strides," he said. "We have a long ways to go. I don't think we're where we need to be. I still feel good about the guys that we have and the potential we have offensively. Once you get in a game and you have those live reps, you can get a better understanding because it's tough when you go against your own defense all the time.
"I'm confident, absolutely," he said. "These are the dog days of camp. The defense are going to have their days when they win and there are going to be days when we get them. That's just the way these things go. It's like that in high school, college wherever you play, it's just part of this time of year. We didn't have a very good night Saturday. We knew we had a lull there but we have to bounce back. I'm confident we will."
Weeden said he's learned sometimes, his best friend might be the check down to a back or underneath receiver.
"If you go back and look at the film you're working one side of the field and knowing where your check downs are," he said. "Knowing where your underneath routes are. I'm an aggressive thrower, that's my personality I like to make tight throws but I think knowing when to take those shots and knowing when to be aggressive and knowing when to check it down and use our backs, use their abilities and get their hands on the ball in space, that's one thing.
"I'll try and throw a corner route when I might have something underneath that might get six-, seven- or eight yards," he said. "If I can get better in those areas, that completion percentage will go up and that will allow us to get more first downs and put ourselves in better position. It's always easier to have second-and-3 versus second-and-10 in this league."
Weeden says he knows he needs to play well with Jason Campbell and Brian Hoyer behind him, but said he hasn't put any added pressure on himself.
"I know I have to play well, so I'm not putting any added pressure (on myself)," he said. "You have to be smart and understand where you're at and treat it like it's a real game.
"I want to put together drives and manage the game," he said. "The coaches are big on seeing consistent, manageable drives, whether it's a four-yard run here or a six-yard pass there. That's my goal, just to put our guys in a position to have no negative plays."
T Rich, Ward Ruled Out: Chudzinski said that RB Trent Richardson (shin) and DB T.J. Ward (hamstring) will not play in the preseason opener with the Rams.
"Trent Richardson and T.J. Ward, we'll also hold (out) for the game," Chudzinski said. "Both would be available to play normally, but since it's the preseason we're going to be smart with them and hold them for the game, as well."
Weeden was asked if Richardson is bothered by being held out .
"He seems fine with it," he said "He's a competitor and wants to play, but he understands."
Both Richardson and Ward practiced in individual drills on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Chudzinski said that RB Dion Lewis and RB Chris Ogbonnaya will start in the backfield. DB Johnson Bademosi will start at strong safety for Ward with Tashaun Gipson at free safety.
Lauvao Out: OL Shawn Lauvao was ruled out of the game after missing his second-straight practice with an ankle injury.
"Shawn Lauvao will not play."
Chudzinski was asked if he could play if it were the regular season like he indicated was the case for Richardson and Ward.
"He will be out for the game," he said. "I don't have any more details."
Jason Pinkston will start at right guard and rookies Garrett Gilkey and Caylin Hauptmann will follow in the rotation. Gilkey was drafted in the seventh-round from Chadron State and Hauptmann is an undrafted free agent rookie from Florida International.
McFadden Missing: Rookie CB Leon McFadden was sidelined from Wednesday's practice with a groin injury and he will not play against the Rams.
"He pulled a groin and will be sidelined," Chudzinski said. "Hopefully, we'll get him back soon enough and he'll get his opportunities to show in the games what he can do."
Ruled Out: Besides the aforementioned players (Richardson, Ward, McFadden and Lauvao) six other players have been ruled out for Thursday's game: RB Montario Hardesty (hamstring), FB Brock Bolen (calf), RB Brad Smelley (hamstring), OL Ryan Miller (head), OL
Chris Faulk 9knee) and OL Oniel Cousins (ankle).
The Plan: Chudzinski said the plan is for the starters to play most of the first quarter and then the second team will play most of the second and third quarters, with the remainder of the roster finishing up the game in the fourth quarter.
"I'm looking to see guys out there competing to win and seeing what they carry over from the practice field in execution and bring it to the game," he said. "Ultimately, the effort and establishing the identity that we want to establish."
Roster cuts to 75 are required by Aug. 27 and then 53 by Aug. 31.
Bad Barbers: CB Joe Haden said that some of the rookies received buzz hair cuts as part of the initiation process.
"There are some bad barbers in there," Haden said. "They look terrible."
Haden said he survived the hazing to some degree as a rookie, but received a pass if he bought all of the defensive players I Pads, so he complied.