Q. The Browns decided to begin the season with rookie Brandon Weeden as their starting quarterback. What kind of player is he?
A. He appears to be an extremely heady player. He’s staying within himself. He’s distributing the ball to a lot of different guys. He won’t hesitate to check the ball down, to utilize backs and tight ends, and I think that’s a sign of maturity. Obviously he’s mature beyond his football years as a 29-year-old rookie because he had a professional baseball career before settling on football. So he’s not as green emotionally or from a maturity standpoint as most rookies.
Q. You mentioned Weeden’s age. During the run-up to the draft, his age – then 28 years old – was seen as a negative. But now that’s he’s a starting quarterback in the NFL, can his age be an asset to him?
A. Time will tell that story. In terms of him being a rookie and a guy who has to deal with the things that rookies go through, there’s no question he’s better equipped to deal with it at 29 as opposed to 21 or 22. Largely, his age and how it affects his play or his career will be determined over the course of his career.
Q. So, it turns out Jim Brown was much better at playing running back in the NFL than he was at evaluating college running backs coming into the NFL. During the preseason, Brown referred to Trent Richardson as “ordinary.” What is your assessment?
A. I was hoping that the legendary Jim Brown was correct, but he’s flat wrong, and I’m sure he feels the same way now after having watched this young man play over 10 games or so. Richardson is talented. He’s a guy for any occasion. He’s a tough inside runner. He’s got good contact balance. He’s also their leading receiver. A lot of their ball flows through him and rightfully so. He’s justifying being the third overall pick in 10 games already.
Q. Based on his combination of running and receiving skills, and his body type, is it fair to call Richardson a younger, inexperienced version of Ray Rice?
A. I think that’s a fair assessment, no question. But over time we’ll get a sense of not comparing him to anyoneelse, but just simply comparing him to Trent Richardson. My concern today is stopping him.
Q. Wide receiver Josh Gordon is second among rookies in receiving yards and is averaging 19.6 yards per catch. What has he added to their receiving corps?
A. He’s added some deep-play ability. He has been able to get behind some people and get over the top of the coverage, and he has a nice rapport with Brandon Weeden. More than anything else, he’s another viable guy for them, a guy who is wide receiver-capable, a guy who has the polish associated with the position. They have some other guys who are somewhat gadget guys, like Travis Benjamin and Josh Cribbs. This guy can do any element of wide receiver play – he can play outside, he can play inside in the slot, he’s good at motion, he’s a big-body guy in terms of cracking and blocking safeties and other defensive guys in the box. He’s a good addition for them.
Q. On defense, the Browns have four players tied for the team lead in sacks, and three of them are defensive linemen. End Jabaal Sheard is one of those four and he also leads the defensive linemen in tackles. What kind of a player is he?
A. He is probably the best of that group, and he also has the most complete body of work in terms of how he hustles. This guy’s motor is relentless. It’s going to be a big challenge for
Q. Joshua Cribbs has been a premier return man in the NFL for all of his eight seasons. Is he getting it done in a different way now than when he was younger?
A. He’s still Josh Cribbs to me. You’re talking about a guy who has eight kickoff returns for touchdowns and three punt returns for touchdowns over the course of his career. I think the thing that’s different about him when comparing him to all of the other great return men, whether we’re talking about past or present, is that he does a nice job of being effective in the coverage units as well. He is as significant a guy on kickoff coverage or punt coverage as he is with the ball in his hands. When we have our return units on the field, we have to be prepared to get a helmet on him, because he makes tackles as well as score touchdowns.