INDIANAPOLIS — For the first time since he got the job six weeks ago, Browns coach Rob Chudzinski opened up Friday about what he’s seen on film of quarterback Brandon Weeden.
He likes the arm talent and potential, but still wasn’t willing to name Weeden the starter for 2013. The team plans a competition, and may even be open to trading Weeden and/or backup Colt McCoy.
“Brandon has a really good arm, he can make all the throws that you need to throw, he has a good, calm poise and demeanor in the pocket,” Chudzinski said at the scouting combine during a meeting with local media. “He was up and down a little bit during the season as any quarterback, especially a young quarterback, is. You see some things that are there that get you excited about him.”
But not enough to commit to Weeden, who started 15 games as a rookie in 2012 with 14 touchdowns, 17 interceptions and a 72.6 rating. The Browns have had a revolving door at the game’s most important position since returning in 1999 and Chudzinski was asked if it would continue.
“Some of those things are hard to say,” he said. “We need to get out on the practice field. We need to get into the meetings, get into the installs and evaluate him. We’re going to put the best guy on the field that gives us the best chance to win.”
Part of the hesitation is that Chudzinski and offensive coordinator Norv Turner haven’t seen Weeden practice or been around him for an extended period. The unfamiliarity and uneven rookie season make it hard to go all-in on the 29-year-old.
“I’m excited about getting Brandon out on the field and in the meetings and around the building,” Chudzinski said. “It’s tough when you’re just looking at tape on guys. Until you get out there, until you get in meetings with guys and you get a sense for them, you start teaching the things you want done and how you want them done and then see those guys and how they react to them on the field, and then get him in situations. Put him in situations that as a quarterback are important, the two-minute drills that you do in practice, and the third downs and the red zone and all those critical situations. That’s where you really get a chance to see him and evaluate him based on what you’re teaching them and what you’re emphasizing.
“Certainly he has some good tools to work with. He had some success. You saw progress as the season went on last year.”
The voluntary offseason program begins April 1, so Weeden will be allowed to start learning the offense and working out with teammates. Because Chudzinski’s new, he gets an extra minicamp that will be held in mid-April before the draft.
Turner, who will double as quarterbacks coach, has a rich history of improving quarterbacks, including Troy Aikman in Dallas, Alex Smith in San Francisco and Philip Rivers in San Diego.
“Brandon’s got a skill set that you’re excited about and I have all the confidence in the world that Norv will get Brandon to improve and ultimately it’s going to be on Brandon or on any player what they put into it and how much they commit to it,” Chudzinski said.
Not everyone in the team’s new brain trust in convinced Weeden is that guy. While Chudzinski joined Turner with nice words for Weeden, CEO Joe Banner and vice president of player personnel Michael Lombardi have elected not to endorse him. And owner Jimmy Haslam said at the Super Bowl the team will add competition, which could come through the draft and/or free agency.
“I think the overall point is that we want competition,” Chudzinski said. “Competition makes people better.
“Guys are going to have opportunities and when guys have opportunities, they have to make good on those opportunities and deliver, and that’s ultimately what you want to see as a coach.”
Chudzinski was asked if the team would listen to trade offers for Weeden and McCoy.
“We’re not going to get into any specifics on any of our guys and any of those type of things,” he said. “We’re looking to improve our team in any area, by any means of doing that.”
The draft is the most obvious option, especially during the combine. It was quarterback day at Lucas Oil Stadium, and West Virginia’s Geno Smith, USC’s Matt Barkley, North Carolina State’s Mike Glennon, Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib and Florida State’s EJ Manuel paraded to the podiums to address the media.
Cleveland could have its choice at No. 6. The Browns could also wait to grab a “second-tier” guy in the third round or take a flyer in the later rounds. Many experts have called the quarterback class weak with no surefire first-round picks.
“People have talked about that,” Chudzinski said. “I have not studied enough, I’m still playing catch-up on a lot of these things in the draft. This will give me an opportunity to do that this week as well as getting in the interviews and being around some of those guys.”
Chudzinski touched on several other topics:
• He wouldn’t say whether the Browns will try to re-sign any of their free agents. He was asked specifically about kicker Phil Dawson.
“Phil had a great year last year,” he said. “I know Phil and I have a lot of respect for Phil, but I’m not going to get into what’s going on in our free-agent type situations.”
• Injury updates.
Left guard Jason Pinkston (blood clot) has not been cleared to return to football after missing the final 10 games. He had resumed training by the end of the season.
“I’m not sure what his status is and probably won’t be for a while,” Chudzinski said.
Linebacker Chris Gocong’s rehab from a torn Achilles in training camp is “on target” and he’s running. Chudzinski wasn’t sure if he’ll be ready for minicamp in April.
• The team’s biggest areas of need.
“I’m not going to get into pinning down the specifics on that, but we do have a lot of needs, a lot of areas we can improve on,” Chudzinski said.
• The transition to a 3-4, multiple-front defensive scheme.
“The style of 3-4 we’re talking about, the guys we have are very adaptable to that and will fit in,” he said. “What I really see with that group upfront is a number of guys that can play multiple positions.”
• Jabaal Sheard switching from 4-3 end to 3-4 outside linebacker, which would require him to drop in pass coverage.
“It’s something he’s done some,” Chudzinski said. “Obviously that will be something he’ll learn and keep working on. I know that (in the 2011 draft) there were a lot of 3-4 teams that were interested in him as well.”
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