It’s been 17 years since a Browns quarterback has started every game in a season, but after a sensational debut from Baker Mayfield, the Browns may have found their guy.
Stuck in a quarterback purgatory since essentially the turn of the century, Mayfield showed that he has the tools to lead the Browns into the future.
With Tyrod Taylor still in the fold in Cleveland, the Browns are going to have an interesting decision to make if Mayfield keeps this up.
Sure, there were some errant throws, but that’s going to happen.
With that said, let’s take a deeper look at how Mayfield performed in Week 1 against the New York Giants passing the football.
In this throw here, Mayfield shows his ability to utilize the five-step drop back and throw the ball to wide receiver Rashard Higgins.
It may appear to be a simple drop back and throw, but the timing on the throw shows that Mayfield and Higgins have worked on that kind of play leading up to this game. This is the kind of throw that is especially valuable in the red zone for easier touchdowns.
Coming into this season, we knew Mayfield could run with the ball, but there was questions as to other parts of the main quarterback game.
Here, Mayfield steps up in the pocket to avoid the pocket collapsing around him and delivers a beautiful bullet pass to wide receiver C.J. Board.
Later in the game, we get Mayfield’s first of two touchdown passes in this game. His first went to tight end David Njoku.
But this wasn’t just a layup touchdown strike—Mayfield really used every tool in the quarterback tool box for this one.
At the beginning of the play, it’s clear he wanted to hit a receiver over the middle. However, he looks to numerous options and eventually delivers a ball in the back of the end zone—in double coverage mind you—to Njoku.
A few notes here. This obviously illustrates trust with Njoku and it also shows that Njoku is going to be a monstrous red zone weapon for the Browns in 2018.
What a way to kick off your NFL career, touchdown-wise.
This play isn’t nearly as exciting as the others, but it is important.
Why? Well, Mayfield shows his ability to escape pressure even with a defender all over him. He stays poised, finds his receiver and deliver another pass to Higgins for a completion.
It’s things like this that allow quarterbacks to separate themselves from their competition in preseason. The little things.
Sometimes rookie quarterbacks try to become superman and make a play happen.
That almost happened to Mayfield here, however, he knew when to get rid of the ball.
Prior to getting rid of it, Mayfield did scan the field all over, but once he saw three defenders collapsing on him, he got rid of the ball instead of trying to create the mega-play down the field.
Sometimes in the NFL and at the quarterback position, you just need to know when to give up on a play and fight on the next down. This is a fairly rare trait in young quarterbacks and Mayfield displayed it here.
This was an impressive throw and catch all around. This time, to wide receiver Antonio Callaway.
At the beginning of the play, Mayfield looks to his left but notices the play breaking down.
As a result, he uses his running ability to run to the right and with a defender breathing down his neck, he delivers a throw from roughly his own 12-yard line to his 47-yard line or so.
Callaway makes an excellent effort at staying in bounds, dragging his feet.
This play here was another case of Mayfield trying to keep the play alive while also not making a bonehead mistake.
As Mayfield drops back, he can feel the pressure coming.
So what does he do?
He steps up in the pocket, runs laterally to the right, notices his receiver down field who is in front of his defender and tries to make a play happen.
It was a hard throw to make, but he still gave it a shot.
The difference between this play and the play earlier is the situation. Mayfield was clear of pressure after his maneuevers, as opposed to three defenders barreling after him.
Great field vision to spot the receiver, even if it wasn’t a completion.
To conclude this fantastic debut, Mayfield found Callaway, who had a rough game if not for this touchdown, for a long touchdown strike of 54 yards.
Mayfield doesn’t even drop back. Instead, he throws off his back foot to Callaway over the middle who sheds two defenders and makes good use of that 4.41 40-yard dash speed to score the touchdown.
When it was all said and done, Mayfield racked up 212 passing yards on 11 completions in 20 attempts, two passing touchdowns and also ran the ball three times for 13 yards, averaging 4.3 yards per carry.
Expected opening day starter Taylor also had a nice showing in limited action completing all five of his attempts for 99 yards and a score.
These two are going to be in a heated battle all preseason long.
Mayfield showed incredible poise as a rookie and did more things well than not.
Could the exciting Mayfield finally be the answer to the Browns quarterback misery? He’ll have a chance to audition once again.
This time, it will be Week 2 in Cleveland. Expect the Dawg Pound to be as rowdy as ever when Mayfield hits the field.