Browns' QB Weeden wobbles, won't fall down

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Browns' QB Weeden wobbles, won't fall down

BEREA, Ohio (AP) Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden received a vote of confidence on Election Day from his coach.

He'd happily trade it for a win.

Although the rifle-armed rookie failed to lead Cleveland to a touchdown during a 25-15 loss to Baltimore on Sunday, Browns coach Pat Shurmur offered his unwavering support to the 29-year-old QB, whose first nine games in the NFL have included some moments of brilliance and others he'd love to have back.

As the Browns (2-7) headed into their bye week with a long list of problems, a quarterback controversy is not one of them.

``I do believe in him,'' Shurmur said Wednesday. ``He is our guy. It's not going to be perfect. It's not going to be perfect all the time.''

During a season in which rookie quarterbacks are making a major impact around the league, Weeden has yet to make a significant dent. He ranks behind fellow first-year starters Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson and Ryan Tannehill in many statistical categories and he trails them all in the thing that matters most - wins.

``I'm frustrated,'' Weeden said following practice. ``We've won two games. We've been in games when we've had a chance to win and we've come up short too many times. As a quarterback, that's frustrating. I feel like I need to do more to help this team win.''

Weeden still seemed upset about his uneven performance against the Ravens. He drove the Browns inside Baltimore's 20-yard line five times, but Cleveland couldn't get into the end zone and had to settle for five field goals from Phil Dawson in dropping its 10th straight game to one of its bitter AFC North enemies.

Weeden finished 20 of 37 for 176 yards and two interceptions, dropping his passer rating to 67.9 - the league's second-worst mark. He did throw one touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, but it was wiped out by an illegal formation penalty. It's been that kind of season for Weeden, who has had more passes dropped than any other quarterback but he has also missed his share of wide-open receivers.

There were chances for big plays against Baltimore, but Weeden didn't make them. On Cleveland's second series, he overthrew running back Chris Ogbonnaya (on a play that was nullified by a penalty) and later missed tight end Benjamin Watson, who was streaking uncovered down the field for what could have been a long TD.

They were mistakes, Weeden's mistakes and he took the blame for them.

``When the guys are open, you have to make the throws,'' he said. ``And when they're open, you have to be routine with those. When they're wide open, you have to be 100 percent. You know I missed Obi. That's a wide-open throw. I've gotta make that. I missed Ben on a crossing route. Simple throw. I've gotta make that.

``Stuff like that, that's the stuff that eats away at me more than anything. It's guys that bust their tail to get open and I'm not able to give them a chance.''

While Shurmur attempted to put a positive spin on things, Weeden may have regressed some. He wasn't as accurate as he needed to be, and when the Browns did venture into Baltimore's red zone, Weeden did not throw a single pass into the end zone, but rather used his ``checkdowns'' and threw short.

He finished 3 of 6 for 8 yards inside the 20.

Weeden had to be careful with Ravens All-Pro safety Ed Reed lurking in coverage. He had to weigh risk vs. reward, and instead of gambling and possibly getting picked off, Weeden chose the safer course. He knows that if he had thrown an interception in those situations, fans and critics would have been tougher on him than they already are.

``I'm in a lose-lose,'' he said. ``So I check it down and hope to God that my backs can get a first down. If not, get a few yards and kick a field goal. But you've got to take shots. If they were there, if they were open, then I'll throw it. But they weren't open, so when guys aren't open, you can't force it, especially with No. 20 (Reed) back there. He's a game-changer.''

Shurmur feels Weeden has made huge strides since throwing four picks in the season opener against Philadelphia. Weeden seems to be learning from his mistakes, and not repeating them.

A former quarterbacks coach, Shurmur says it can be tough for players to take criticism when things aren't going well. He said that's not a problem for Weeden.

``He handles it fine, in a way that promotes learning,'' Shurmur said. ``He's very quick to say he made a mistake. That's where it's tough, when you have to convince a guy, `Hey listen, this was wrong.' That's when it's hard for a player to get better, if he won't admit that he screwed the thing up.''

Cleveland's bye came at a good time for Weeden and his teammates, many of whom are younger than him and could use a physical and mental vacation. It's a time for reflection, self-analysis and a chance to regroup before playing seven more games.

Weeden needs the break. There are still those who doubt him, vocal detractors who believe the Browns wasted a first-round pick on him and critics who feel Colt McCoy should be starting. Weeden has heard it all, and he's not surprised by any of it.

``When you're in a situation like I am, a first-round guy, starting quarterback, there's 31 other guys in this world that do what I do,'' he said. ``We're all under the same microscope. So they're just like I am. They don't let it get to them. They don't let it bother them.''

Has he blocked it out?

``Oh, yeah,'' he said. ``I'm way over that. Way past that.''

Weeden will spend a few days at home in Oklahoma, where he intends to play some golf and get away from the chill he's felt lately in Cleveland.

``75 and sunny, baby,'' he said.

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NOTES: Browns RB Trent Richardson, who has rushed for more than 100 yards in the past two games, said he'll be even better once his rib injury has fully healed. ``I haven't been at 100 percent yet so I'm waiting for that moment,'' he said. ``When they heal - I don't know if it will be over this bye week - but whenever it do, it's going to be a whole other Trent.'' ... Browns K Phil Dawson and DT Phil Taylor were excused from practice by Shurmur. ``The Phils are fine,'' he said.

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Three things to know about Ravens sixth-round pick Keenan Reynolds

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Three things to know about Ravens sixth-round pick Keenan Reynolds

We are profiling the Ravens’ draft picks as they prepare to start minicamp Friday. Here are three things to know about sixth-round pick, WR Keenan Reynolds of Navy:

1. The biggest push to draft Reynolds came from assistant general manager Eric DeCosta.

DeCosta, general manager Ozzie Newsome, and coach John Harbaugh were visibly moved talking about making the phone call to Reynolds. All of them admire the way Reynolds has handled himself at Navy, both on and off the field.

When Newsome made the call, he put Reynolds on speaker phone so that everyone could hear his reaction. “Everyone in the room could be a part of telling him that we picked him,” Newsome said. “It was a special moment.”

2. Reynolds is much more than just a symbolic pick.

The Ravens believe Reynolds can stick as a punt returner, and that he has the athleticism and work ethic to become a polished slot receiver. Reynolds has many qualities inherent to top punt returners – good judgment, vision, elusiveness, sure hands, and speed. The Ravens also like that Reynolds has been working with CSN’s Brian Mitchell, a former Pro Bowl punt returner with the Redskins.

“Fortunately, we have a great relationship with Brian Mitchell,” DeCosta said. “We did our homework on him. He’s a guy that was a player of interest to us throughout the process. We kept it very quiet and, and it worked out the right way.”

 3. The Ravens are willing to wait if military obligations prevent Reynolds from playing right away.

Naval Academy graduates are obligated to a five-year military term, but Reynolds has hope of being able to play this fall. The Patriots drafted Navy graduate Joe Cardona last year as a long snapper, and he was granted permission to play. Cardona spent one day a week working at a Rhode Island naval facility. Reynolds hoped a similar arrangement could be worked out for him.

“I’m hoping and praying, and I’m confident that this potentially could be the same type of situation with myself,” Reynolds said. “It’s a blessing that the Ravens felt I was worthy to take a chance on with the military obligation and my service commitment.”

Will Matt Elam make Ravens in 2016 after fifth-year option declined?

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Will Matt Elam make Ravens in 2016 after fifth-year option declined?

It was no surprise the Ravens did not pick up the fifth-year option on safety Matt Elam by Monday’s deadline. The bigger question is whether Elam even makes the team next season.

The 32nd pick in the 2013 draft, Elam has been one of the biggest first-round busts in team history. Some of the standout players who went after Elam in that draft include Panthers defensive tackle Kawann Short (44th), Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell (48th), and Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins (52nd).

Elam missed all of last season with a torn biceps, after underperforming in 2013 and 2014. Elam was a big hitter in college at Florida, but has struggled with missed tackles as a Raven, and has been even worse in pass coverage. With the Ravens acquiring safety Eric Weddle in free agency, and Lardarius Webb switching from cornerback to safety, Elam is expected to be a backup at best. He will compete with Terrence Brooks, Kendrick Lewis, and others for a backup role.

Elam is scheduled to make $1.327 million next season, before becoming a free agent in 2017.  However, Elam’s first priority is to secure his place with the Ravens in 2016.  

AFC North: Steelers LB James Harrison will return for 2016

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AFC North: Steelers LB James Harrison will return for 2016

The Ravens can expect to see Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison as an opponent again in 2016. Harrison confirmed on his Instagram account Monday that he would return for another season.

Harrison will turn 38 years old Wednesday (May 4), but he was still effective in 2015 with five sacks and 40 tackles playing in the Steelers’ linebacker rotation. With his announcement that he was returning, Harrison wrote “I’m feeling just like a fine wine. Getting better with age.”

Despite Harrison’s age, the Steelers believe they got younger and better on defense through the draft. Five of the Steelers’ seven picks were on defense – cornerback Artie Burns (first round), safety Sean Davis (second), defensive tackle Javon Hargrave (third round), outside linebacker Travis Feeney (sixth round), and inside linebacker Tyler Matakevich (seventh round).  

Clearly, there will be plenty of new names in the Ravens-Steelers rivalry, with both teams looking to get younger and faster. However, Harrison plans to be part of the mix for at least another season. The Ravens host the Steelers in Week 9, and visit the Steelers on Christmas afternoon.

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