No matter how good a college QB a player was, the NFL game moves at a different speed and can be tough to get acclimated to. Depending on a player's team that task can be even harder. A sub-par defense may force a team to always be in passing in situations. A porous offensive line will keep any QB busy running for his life. If there is no running game defenses can game plan accordingly.
Brandon Weeden has felt some serious growing pains this preseason as the new starter for the Cleveland Browns. With the way things have looked for the former Oklahoma State QB, his rookie season could very well hinge on the health and productivity of a fellow rookie, Alabama running back Trent Richardson.
It doesn't take a PhD in Gridiron Logic to know that a guy who threw for over 9000 yards and 71 touchdowns in two seasons as a starter in college is going to be tabbed pretty quick with the starter's job in the NFL. In Brandon Weeden's case the urgency was helped by the fact that he is a bit older than the average NFL rookie (28).
The Cleveland Browns took him with the 22nd pick in the draft banking on his age and maturity speeding up the process and allowing them to start him immediately. So far the experiment has not been going so well. In three games he has completed just 24 of 49 passes for less than 300 yards and has yet to throw a touchdown pass.
Does that mean it was a mistake to draft Weeden? Not necessarily.
No individual football player would be as good as he is without having quality players around him. That holds true for no position more than it does for quarterback. At Oklahoma State last season he had the benefit of Justin Blackmon catching passes (121 of them for 1522 yards and 18 touchdowns). Running back Joseph Randle was a forced to be reckoned with as well (1216 yards and 24 touchdowns on 208 carries).
In Cleveland he does have a pair of good receivers in rookie Josh Gordon and a second year wide receiver in Greg Little (61 receptions for 709 yards in '11). Gordon will still need to prove he can do it in the NFL, but he has looked good so far in training camp and in limited preseason action. What's missing from the equation is a solid, quality running back.
The Browns think they have just that in the No. 3 pick of the '12 draft, Alabama running back Trent Richardson. As the backup to Mark Ingram for two years he showed the ability to be a primary running back averaging close to six yards a carry. Once Ingram left for the NFL he got his chance to shine and did just that running for 1679 yards and 21 touchdowns en route to being a Heisman trophy finalist.
It was enough for the Browns to trade up so they could take him with the No. 3 pick. However, knee surgery has kept him from stepping onto an NFL game field so far; something that is expected to change once the regular season starts.
That is not to say that a running game is going to solve what ails Brandon Weeden. His decision-making will need to get better, he needs to learn to put a touch on his passes, and he needs to get better at his pre-snap reads. A running game will keep defenses from simply going after Weeden with all they have.
Hopefully with a little less pressure and a little more time he can show the talent that made him a first round pick.