Depending on what your views are, the name Brandon Weeden can either bring recollections of joy for the other Cowboys' fans or groans from the folks that watched his falling out in Cleveland. Either way, the Cowboys are high on his prospects to help this team stay afloat in the NFC East race. If you watched the Thursday Night Snooze-fest then you should be too. With that said, what does Brandon Weeden have to do in order to accomplish his goals in the absence of Tony Romo?
- Don't Be Gun Shy...
Brandon Weeden has a very strong arm dating back to him being drafted as a pitcher for the New York Yankees in the second round of the 2002 MLB Draft. He was also touted as an accurate quarterback in his time at Oklahoma State which led to his segment of John Brenkus' Sport Science. In that segment, Weeden was shown hitting clay pigeons with a football where he landed 4 out of 5 tries. Last week, Weeden was a perfect 7 for 7 for 73 yards including a touchdown strike to Terrance Williams. Where Weeden does struggle a bit is in the short-game but he can sure let it rip when asked to. That's exactly what the coaches must understand when it comes to my fellow ginger friend here. He's not the quarterback that can dink-and-dunk his way into victories. At some point, Weeden must let the ball soar and hopefully to some open targets. Take some confidence in the fact that a.) he's pretty good on the deep ball and b.) he seems to always find Williams in stride. The Cowboys must tailor a game for what best suits Weeden or it's going to be the Arizona game all over again.
- Know His Security Blankets
Tony Romo has made a career in knowing when to pull the trigger and when to live to play another down. He's had to learn the hard way at times too. That's what makes Jason Witten and Lance Dunbar two very important cogs in the system over the next several weeks. Witten loves to hover around the first down marker, Weeden must look for 82 when he's feeling the pressure. Though the short-game has not been Weeden's strength, finding Dunbar on screens is not too tall a task. The Cowboys are not fortunate enough to have Dez Bryant drawing double coverage all-game long which in-turn makes Weeden's check-down game more important.
- Let The Skill Players Make Plays
This is important to note because last season in Arizona, everything seemed so forced. You knew right out of the gate that the gameplan began and ended with Bryant. It was too easy to predict and the Cardinals were able to jump routes and snag the win. Weeden also looked erratic and uncomfortable which led to many passes either too far inside or outside of the catching radius. Scott Linehan has to get his quarterback into rhythm with high completion percentage passing. That means guys need to win in their one-on-one battles. Gavin Escobar and Cole Beasley are matchup nightmares and Weeden must exploit those to win ballgames. All of these skill position players need to come to his aid and make plays when they're called upon. To be fair, in relief duties last season, Weeden was very impressive coming in and making a defense pay. That's a good modus operandi for him to live by and reminds you of the Jason Garrett approach. Weeden has an instinct to find soft spots in coverage and it certainly has led to some scoring on his part. Think about last season when the Cowboys were up 35-0 on the Colts, so naturally Weeden would come in and toss a 40+ yard bomb to Williams. am I right? Even Romo was caught saying with a smile "Oh my gosh, you just freaking scored, ha ha ha", or something like that. These guys need to step up and give Weeden the confidence to call their number. The last thing you want is a bunch of guys running sloppy routes and more forced passes leading early deficits. Help your fellow man.
-Don't Be A Superhero
It's not impossible but it's pretty improbable to expect Brandon Weeden to lead the Cowboys on an undefeated streak. He doesn't have to win every single game especially with how tough the schedule looks in the first half of the season. However, Matt Cassel was signed for a reason. These Dallas Cowboys don't plan on rolling over belly-up. They want to win football games. "You play to win the game." as the great Herm Edwards would say. All Weeden needs to do is keep this boat afloat until Tony Romo can return. If they could go into their November 22nd game against the Dolphins with a ready Romo (disclaimer: If Romo can play, he will play) and Weeden has got them three wins out of seven, that's a solid effort. Anything over that is just icing on the cake. Realistically speaking, it's hard to win in the NFL. The Cowboys defense is good which leads you to salivate over what they may be once Rolando McClain, Greg Hardy, and Randy Gregory return. They will do all they can to help keep this team in games, just ask Sean "Leethal". Garrett has been really impressive with the way he keeps this team focused day-to-day and not looking ahead. For Brandon Weeden, he just needs to focus on each task as they come. Who knows, maybe he'll shock the world.