The Cleveland Browns have been injected with new life after the arrival of 2018 first overall draft selection Baker Mayfield. Mayfield has seemingly set the world ablaze, leading Cleveland to their first win in nearly two years over the New York Jets two weeks ago - going 17-for-23 (73.91% completion percentage) with 201 yards. This week, he will have to take on the second-ranked defense in the NFL, the Baltimore Ravens.
Baltimore is currently 14-2 against rookie quarterbacks during John Harbaugh’s tenure. Though Mayfield has been able to throw for over 200 yards in both games that he’s played, the Ravens have held opponents to just 193.2 passing yards per game. This test will not be easy for him and he realizes that.
”Obviously very talented, physical, they come up and intimidate you, try to hit you, set the tone for the whole game,” Mayfield said of Baltimore’s defense in Wednesday’s conference call. “But then on top of that, they’re just good at what they do. They trust their guys are going to be in the right spots. They trust the guys on the outside and they allow the defensive line and linebackers to make plays because of that.”
As stated previously, Mayfield is no ordinary rookie. In the Browns last game against the Raiders on Sunday, Mayfield went 21-for-41 (51.22%) with 295 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. He also fumbled the ball twice. If you adjust his stats to include the 13 drops that his team has had in his two games — Mayfield would be 51-for-64 (79.69%) with over 600 yards through the air. Despite this, head coach Hue Jackson has told him to keep an eye out for Baltimore’s defense.
”I think just with how the defense is, they set the tone,” said Mayfield. “He talked about how they’re the leader of the team, how they want to take control of the game, they want to be physical -- stuff like that. I think he just spread the message on what their mindset is — what their mentality is and that’s important for us to realize that.”
Mayfield will also be competing against some of his fellow Oklahoma alumni. Ravens safety Tony Jefferson has been a friend to him, although they never played together with the Sooners. They have talked and engaged in friendly banter through texts.
”Mostly just teaming up against the University of Texas, stuff like that,” Mayfield said of the content of his texts with Jefferson. “Tony is a great guy. [It’s] been great talking to him — getting little pieces of advice throughout my process. But now, [it’s] just talking to him, wishing him good luck — just friendly trash talk — nothing more than that.”
Mayfield had two teammates on offense with Oklahoma that joined him in the AFC North. Offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. and tight end Mark Andrews have been some of Mayfield’s closest comrades on and off of the field.
”I talk to them a couple of times a week,” Mayfield said about Brown Jr. and Andrews. “Those are two of my best friends and two of the best teammates I ever had. So, I’m looking forward to seeing them on Sunday. But the message is definitely mutual, that it’s going to be competitive. Everybody here wants to win, so it will be great, but then we’ll be friends after.”
Andrews specifically has broken out through his first four NFL games. With 10 receptions for 119 yards and a touchdown, the 22-year old tight end has garnered a 73.4 Pro Football Focus grade - ranking eighth among all tight ends and number one among rookies at his position. His former college quarterback expected this type of play from him all along.
”Obviously, he’s a very, very big dude,” said Mayfield of Andrews. “He’s 6-5. I think he’s about 260, but he can run. I think it’s the size plus the talent — which normally you don’t get that mixture -- so he’s blessed with that. And then, his football I.Q. is something that people didn’t realize until you sit down and talk with him. He’s a guy that realizes what you want to accomplish on offense and then when you mix that with how talented he is, that’s a dangerous duo.”
The 23-year old quarterback has seen a great deal of turmoil in the receivers room. Corey Coleman demanded a trade after being demoted on the depth chart, which was chronicled on HBO’s Hard Knocks. Coleman would be traded to the Buffalo Bills before the season. Josh Gordon was then traded to the New England Patriots on September 17 after he injured his hamstring in an off-the-field event and “wasn’t himself”.
He still has a bevy of formidable receivers in the form of Jarvis Landry (24 receptions, 312 yards and one touchdown), Rashard Higgins (13 receptions and 178 yards), Antonio Callaway (10 receptions, 155 yards and one touchdown) and tight end David Njoku (14 receptions and 112 yards). The talent surrounding him — Mayfield believes — has and will shape the type of quarterback that he is.
“You can have all of the talent in the world at quarterback, but if you don’t understand your receivers and you’re unable to adapt to the way they run routes, their catching abilities, then that all goes out the window,” Mayfield said. “So, being able to see how they run, how talented they are and kind of adapt to what their skill set is, is the most important thing and they’ve made my job very easy.
“Obviously, Jarvis [Landry] is one of the best receivers in the league and we’re hoping Callaway takes right in his footsteps and follows him along.”