Campbell gets his turn at QB
CLEVELAND – Jason Campbell will start at quarterback today for the Browns against the Kansas City Chiefs, but there are no assurances he’ll finish the game.
These are the Browns, after all. Quarterback changes are built in to their fabric. Campbell will be the 20th quarterback to start for the Browns since their expansion season of 1999.
The thought that Campbell won’t finish the game at Arrowhead Stadium isn’t based solely on the possibility he might struggle. It’s related more to his health. The Chiefs lead the NFL with 35 sacks, including 10 by Justin Houston and nine by Tamba Hali.
Browns coach Rob Chudzinski’s basis for making the change from Brandon Weeden to Campbell is based on competitive level and an improved chance of defeating the 7-0 Chiefs.
“There’s not a lot other than just some of the skills he’s had, some of the experience he’s had,” said Chudzinski. “He’s had success and he’s been able to lead teams and do a good job of being productive. That’s what we’re looking for. We’re looking for that lift from him.”
The Browns are in need of a lift after losing two straight games in falling to 3-4. Chudzinski would welcome a lift similar to what Brian Hoyer provided when he was named the starter after Weeden sprained his right thumb against the Baltimore Ravens in week two.
Mobility and having a feel for pressure undoubtedly played heavily in Chudzinski’s decision. Campbell is by no means a read-option style quarterback, but his pocket presence can’t be much worse than Weeden’s.
As for Weeden, the move to Campbell is another setback in his young career and further evidence that he won’t be on the roster next year. Still, given the way quarterbacks have been getting hurt this season, it’s likely he’ll be called on again at some point.
Offensive coordinator Norv Turner had a lengthy conversation with Weeden this week to discuss the change and how he must deal with it. He used former San Francisco 49ers and current Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith as proof that time has a way of changing the fortunes of players.
“We’re going to go play against a guy that’s 7-0 in Alex Smith,” Turner said. “When I got there (as the 49ers offensive coordinator) it was after his rookie year and not many people in San Francisco thought he could play, and he had a good year the year I was with him.
“Obviously, we all know the next two or three years he had struggles. It was kind of resurrected when they changed staffs. I just think you have to keep working and believe in yourself and be ready because you could be back there in a short period of time. Obviously, the same thing applies here. He has to be ready to go.”
It won’t be all about Campbell and the offense. The Browns defense struggled in losses to the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers the last two weeks. That has to change against Chiefs breakaway running back Jamaal Charles.
“He is their offense,” Chudzinski said. “He’s a big part of what they do throwing the ball and running the ball. It goes through him. He’s a key guy that we have to be able to contain.”
If Campbell can add a spark, it would make the job easier on both sides of the ball. The kind of spark that Hoyer supplied. The coaches could see it coming when they watched Hoyer play in place of a sick Campbell in the final preseason game.
“We got a chance to see Brian play in that last game,” Turner said. “We didn’t pass over Brian because he (Campbell) got sick. We got to see Brian, and there was a little spark and some energy. In that case, we were right.”