As Baker Mayfield and the Browns approach the 2020 season, one thing will be clear for the Oklahoma alum. 2020 will determine whether Mayfield is a franchise quarterback or not.
Having enjoyed a strong rookie season, Mayfield regressed in 2019 throwing for fewer touchdowns and more interceptions, 22 and 21 respectively. Although Mayfield had over 100 more passing yards than his 2018 total, he started every game in 2019 and that highlights a regression.
Nonetheless, the former Oklahoma gunslinger didn’t become a bad quarterback overnight. He had his excellent rookie campaign, in which he threw for 3725 yards, 27 touchdowns, a completion percentage of nearly 64% and a passer rating of 93.7. Mayfield has the ability without doubt, but like any quarterback, he needs a good offensive line in front of him.
Mayfield’s protection was a major factor in the quarterback’s struggles last season. The tackle positions in particular were a revolving door throughout 2019, with none of Greg Robinson, Justin McCray, Chris Hubbard and Kendall Lamm providing much protection for Mayfield. In total, Mayfield wassacked 40 times, a significant increase from 2018 when he was sacked 25 times. New general manager Andrew Berry wisely looked to rectify the tackle positions that plagued the Browns last year by bringing in marquee free agent acquisition Jack Conklin and Jedrick Wills through the draft.
On paper at least the Browns offensive line should be much improved.
Cleveland’s skill position players will once again be stacked with Odell Beckham Jr, Jarvis Landry, Austin Hooper, Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, David Njoku and Donovan Peoples-Jones making up a formidable cast of weapons in Mayfield’s arsenal. In theory, Mayfield’s weapons should be much improved. Despite a solid showing, the group was restricted by injury last season. Beckham Jr and Landry in particular played injured for much of the season, while Njoku played just four games in 2019. If this group is fit and firing it will be something to fear.
The depth of the Browns roster will provide will a bunch of flexibility for head coach Kevin Stefanski. Stefanski, who ran two tight-end sets 57% of the time in the NFL last season, will likely be a favoured grouping in Cleveland especially after the additions of Austin Hooper and Harrison Bryant.
Nonetheless, with the depth at wide receiver and running backs, personnel groupings won’t be in short supply.
Mayfield’s struggles under Freddie Kitchens could be argued as a poor schematic fit. Kitchens’ drop back scheme didn’t appear to suit Mayfield but there should be few problems adapting to Stefanski’s system. The play-action scheme ran Stefanski in his final year in Minnesota certainly benefitted Kirk Cousins, who arguably enjoyed the best year of his career in 2019 could show similar results with Mayfield. Around the league, the play-action scheme showed a successful trend with Jared Goff, Jimmy Garoppolo, Ryan Tannehill and Aaron Rodgers all excelling in the play-action based scheme over the years. Those teams, Minnesota included, posted a 119-40 record in 2019.
Furthermore, several quarterbacks have endured the dreaded ‘sophomore slump’ through the years. The list included Dak Prescott, Matt Ryan and Philip Rivers, Ryan became a MVP, Rivers, a multi-time Pro-Bowler and Prescott just had his best statistical season. If Mayfield turns out anything similar to those three quarterbacks, it is safe to say the Browns will be alright.