Browns future in hands of NFL greenhorn Weeden

The Sports Xchange
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If all goes as planned, Brandon Weeden will become the 11th quarterback in 14 years to start a season opener for the Browns on Sept. 9.

Put another way, the last quarterback to start back-to-back openers for the Browns was Charlie Frye in 2006 and '07, and he played so poorly against the Steelers in the 2007 opener he was benched in the second quarter and traded to Seattle two days later.

The mission of the 2012 offseason for the Browns was to make the quarterback carousel -- and the losing -- stop. Not surprisingly with all the quarterback changes, they have had only two winning seasons in 13 years.

General Manager Tom Heckert made a strong pitch to the Rams for the second draft pick with the idea of using it on Robert Griffin III. He offered picks 4 and 22 this year plus the Browns' first-round pick in 2013.

When the Rams rejected the Browns offer and dealt with the Redskins instead, Heckert decided to go in a different direction. He bundled three late picks and the fourth pick to move up one slot in a trade with the Vikings so he could draft running back Trent Richardson from Alabama. He held onto the 22nd pick and used it on Weeden, the 28-year-old quarterback from Oklahoma State.

Critics said Heckert could have waited to the 37th pick for Weeden, but he did not want to take that chance. Missing on Weeden would have meant another year of Colt McCoy or possibly Seneca Wallace as the starter -- something the Browns did not want.

Weeden has not been declared the starter yet, but that is definitely in the forecast. He and Richardson are the present and the future for the Browns.

Heckert plus team president Mike Holmgren and Coach Pat Shurmur realize that to close the gap on the Ravens Steelers and Bengals -- all three AFC North teams made the playoffs last year -- the Browns had to get better at quarterback, even if the turn-around from 4-12 last year isn't profound in 2012. Andy Dalton started for the Bengals last year and became the first rookie quarterback in NFL history to win at least eight games and throw 20 touchdown passes. That is something for Weeden to shoot for.

The Browns did not stop at Richardson and Weeden. Heckert used the 37th overall pick on right tackle Mitchell Schwartz. His offseason goal was to make the Browns better at running back, quarterback and the offensive line. He bolstered all three through the draft.

What cannot be overlooked is how important the offseason program and minicamps were, especially on offense. Like every other team last year, the lockout prohibited the Browns coaches from associating with their players. The first time Shurmur met most of them was in training camp. Compounding that was he was the offensive coordinator as well as a first-year head coach of a team that won a total of 14 games in three years.

The defense got deeper in the offseason, particularly on the line with the addition of ends Frostee Rucker (Bengals) and Juqua Parker (Eagles). Rucker will start opposite Jabaal Sheard, who as a rookie last year led the Browns with 8.5 sacks.

Last year's first-round draft choice, defensive tackle Phil Taylor, tore his left pectoral on May 10 while lifting weights. Heckert said he expects Taylor to be ready by late October or early November.

"I'm itching to get back, but I'm not going to rush it," Taylor said on Tuesday. "When I know it's time for me to be out there, I'll be out there."

Losing Taylor a year ago would have been devastating, but the Browns can absorb the injury better because of draft picks John Hughes and Billy Winn.

Copyright (C) 2012 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.

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