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Browns' Weeden learning on fly

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Browns' Weeden learning on fly

BEREA, Ohio (AP) Brandon Weeden had his trigger finger ready.

While relaxing at home Tuesday night, Cleveland's rookie quarterback was reviewing the Sept. 27 game against Baltimore on his iPad when he came to that fateful moment in the third quarter.

With the Browns trailing just 16-10 and driving for a potential go-ahead touchdown, Weeden hung a third-down pass toward the sideline for wide receiver Travis Benjamin. The throw was intercepted by cornerback Cary Williams, who returned it 63 yards for a touchdown.

``I fast-forwarded right through it,'' Weeden said. ``Didn't watch it.''

He's not hiding his eyes as often these days.

Weeden has kept his mistakes to a minimum lately, and the 29-year-old is heading into this week's rematch with the Ravens (5-2) bursting with confidence. After throwing four interceptions in his NFL debut against Philadelphia, Weeden has been picked off six times in his past seven games, and he hasn't thrown an interception in his past two.

It's another sign of growth for Weeden, who has had to learn the hard way it's better to live to play another down than die trying to be a hero.

``You cannot turn the ball over,'' he said Wednesday, repeating what he's been hearing from Cleveland's coaches for weeks. ``You've got to be smart with the football.''

Weeden's decision making has gotten better each week, and it's one of the biggest reasons the Browns (2-6) have won two of three heading into the AFC North game with Baltimore. In a division loaded with quality quarterbacks, Ravens coach John Harbaugh believes Weeden, just eight games into his pro career, can hold his own with Baltimore's Joe Flacco, Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger and Cincinnati's Andy Dalton, who led their teams to the playoffs last season.

``I'm very impressed with him,'' Harbaugh said. ``You look at this division, there are four really good quarterbacks and that makes it a tough division. He's done a nice job of really incorporating himself into what they're trying to do offensively. It looks like he's really smart, he's got a nice arm and he's got good poise back there.

``He's got a really good feel for the rush and getting the ball out and those kind of things. One of the main things for a young guy is just not turning the ball over much, and he's done a good job with that.''

Weeden's numbers back that up.

He's only thrown one interception in the past three games, and the Browns have gone 2-1, beating Cincinnati and San Diego at home. While he's flattered that Harbaugh would place him among the elite QBs in his division, Weeden isn't sure he deserves that kind of high praise just yet.

``I don't know if I'm there yet,'' he said. ``I think he's giving me a little too much. I've got to win some more games and I need to do some better things to help this team out before I get there. ``

Weeden went 25 of 52 for 320 yards in the Browns' 23-16 loss to the Ravens in Week 4. He didn't throw a touchdown and his only mistake was the Williams interception he can't bear to see again. But even after he threw it, Weeden came right back on the field and drove the Browns to a field goal.

His ability to forget the costly mistake and move on impressed his coaches and teammates. It was a gut-check moment for Weeden, who wanted to make up for his error without making another one.

``I knew I had to,'' he said. ``I didn't have a choice. I put the team in such a tough spot, spotted them seven points and put ourselves in a hole, so I had to answer. I had to find a way to answer and we came up short, but we learned a lot.''

The Browns are growing up.

As he reviewed tape of the earlier matchup Weeden identified mistakes he and his teammates have since corrected. Also, at that time, Cleveland's offense was still trying to incorporate rookie wide receiver Josh Gordon and running back Trent Richardson was working his way back from knee surgery.

``Josh Gordon hadn't really come into his own,'' Weeden said. ``I was doing some uncharacteristic things, missing some throws. We had some drops. We did some things where we're not making the same mistakes as we were making. We've come a long ways and that's encouraging. After watching it last night, it's very, very encouraging.''

Despite his costly pick, some key drops and losing return specialist Josh Cribbs to a concussion, the Browns had a chance to tie on the final play, but Weeden was hit as he tried to connect with Greg Little in the back of the end zone. Still, Weeden believes there were some positives in the loss.

``For us to be able to go down to the wire with a team like that with a bunch of young guys, it gives us confidence,'' he said. ``We may not talk about it, we may not bring it up, but mentally it's got to give us confidence going forward. It's showing we can play with anybody in this league and I don't think teams really take us lightly anymore.

``We've got guys that have really raised some eyebrows and really make you stay on your toes. You can't just come to Cleveland, or when you show up on Sunday, you can't just fold your tent.''

NOTES: Browns DT Phil Taylor said he'll play Sunday for the first time this season. He's been out since tearing a chest muscle lifting weights in May. With Taylor back the defense will be as close to full strength as it has been. ... CB Buster Skrine, who broke up a fourth-down pass on San Diego's final drive Sunday, is the honorary fourth captain this week. ... DT Ahtyba Rubin (calf) and CB Dimitri Patterson (ankle) both missed practice.

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Reaction: Peter King picks Ravens 12th in 2019 Power Rankings

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Reaction: Peter King picks Ravens 12th in 2019 Power Rankings

With OTAs underway, Peter King has released his 2019 NFL preseason power rankings and of the biggest surprises is the Baltimore Ravens landing at No. 12 on the list. Although stud Lamar Jackson surprised people last season, given the substandard state of their defense and the burden on Jackson to shoulder the load offensively, King may have the Ravens ranked a few spots too high. 

Let's start with the defense; it's got more holes than a slice of swiss cheese. Most notably they lost linebacker Terrell Suggs, the heart and soul of their defense for the past decade. Although past his prime, Suggs is still a productive player and they will undoubtedly miss his leadership. They released defensive back Eric Weddle, who was coming off two straight Pro-Bowl appearances. Their justification was that he's 34 and by releasing him, they could allocate the money to re-signing All-Pro linebacker C.J. Mosley. Solid reasoning, if Mosley didn't sign with the New York Jets in the offseason.

Credit must be given, however, to the four-year, $55 million contract given to former Seattle Seahawks All-Pro safety Earl Thomas. Coming off a broken leg, he is easily the biggest X-factor for this defense. If he produces like the Earl Thomas of old, it'll more than makeup for the loss of the Weddle. They'll also be getting back defensive tackle Willie Reed from injury, who's young and hungry.

Although last years' defense was one of, if not the top unit in the NFL, all anyone could manage to talk about was the dynamic offense led by rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson. Coach John Harbaugh threw caution to the wind and handed the reins to Jackson in Week 10, and the Ravens proceeded to win six of their next seven games behind a run-dominated offense.

It's a toss-up if they'll be able to replicate that success this season. On the one hand, the unconventional attack took the league by storm last year and one could argue the league just needed time to adapt to this new-look offense. On the other hand, the Ravens did add some electric new pieces to the offense to replace the losses of wide receivers Michael Crabtree and John Brown. 

They added Mark Ingram who is one of the best dual-threat running backs in the league when healthy. Their first-round pick, wide receiver Marquise Brown, is one of the fastest players Todd McShay has ever evaluated. Third-round pick wide receiver Miles Boykin was one of the 20 fastest players at the draft and fourth-round pick  Justice Hill registered the fastest 40 time for running backs at the combine. Adding young, electric talent will enhance Jackson's already stellar playmaking ability. 

At tight end, they're one of the deepest teams in the NFL, headed up by Nick Boyle and Hayden Hurst. Keep in mind, however, that this is the NFL: it all starts with the quarterback. Jackson completed passes at a 58.2% clip last season. If the Ravens are serious about building around him, he'll have to improve as a passer. 

Taking the defensive deficiencies and questions on offense into account, and 12 is too high for the preseason power rankings; 16 is more appropriate. In his article, King writes about the Ravens saying, "They could win 11. They could win six." If I had to choose one outcome I'd take the latter. 

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Baltimore Ravens Roundup: OTAs Day 1

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Baltimore Ravens Roundup: OTAs Day 1

Kick off your Tuesday with the latest Baltimore Ravens news including a recap of the first day of OTAs.

Player/Team Notes: 

1. Yesterday, (Monday) was the first day of the Ravens' OTAs. OTAs continue today (Tuesday) as the Ravens work on developing a new offense. Check out some of the highlights here. 

2. The Baltimore Ravens have officially announced the full 90-man roster that will be competing for an official team roster spot in OTAs this summer. 

Looking Ahead:

July 15: 4 p.m. deadline to get a long-term deal done with designated franchise tag players.

The 2019 NFL schedule is set! See the Baltimore Ravens defend the AFC North at M&T Bank Stadium this season. Get your tickets now at www.BaltimoreRavens.com/tickets.

Credit: Baltimore Ravens for news points.

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