Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield admitted being “disappointed” in his preseason efforts against the Philadelphia Eagles. Let’s take a deeper look at the performance and see if that comment is justified.
NFL preseason games leave little by the way of serious takeaways, yet the third week of exhibition contests are about as close to the regular-season thing as it gets.
In the Cleveland Browns’ dress rehearsal against the Philadelphia Eagles Thursday, a 5-0 win would seem to indicate more of the former instead of an actual regular-season tuneup. And Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield, the No. 1 overall pick from the 2018 NFL Draft, wasn’t exactly impressive as far as the numbers were concerned.
On the night, after relieving an injured Tyrod Taylor (hand), Mayfield finished with an 8-of-12 mark for 76 yards and an interception — all leading to a lowly 49.3 passer rating on the night, which included going up against some of Philly’s first-string defense.
“I would never say it is a good opportunity when our leader and captain goes down but getting out there with the ones, that is something that I need to do,” Mayfield remarked after the game, via Ohio.com (h/t Pro Football Talk). “I did that, and that is why I am disappointed in myself. I didn’t take advantage.”
Over three weeks of preseason action, Mayfield is completing 57.8 percent of his 45 passing attempts, resulting in two touchdowns and that interception against Philly, all for an 89.4 passer rating.
And while working with the first-team unit should be beneficial for his long-term impact, did Thursday reveal Mayfield might not be the answer to start right away in Week 1?
Let’s take a deeper look.
At the 4:56 mark of the first quarter, Mayfield finds himself under pressure after the fake handoff. With Cleveland’s offensive line a bit of a question mark entering 2018, this is likely something any Browns quarterback will have to deal with often this season. The play fake won’t help matters here, although many young quarterbacks benefit from such play calling.
Mayfield is nearly taken down for a sack on the play but manages to escape out to the left side of the pocket. But he throws the ball away and clearly well over the head of wide receiver Jarvis Landry, who could have hauled it in for what would have likely set up a doable 3rd-and-2 play.
Fortunately, Mayfield makes up for it the following play by finding an open Rashard Higgins.
Two things from this play — Mayfield didn’t respond to the pressure well despite being able to extend the play, although it was apparent he was able to accurately place his following pass over the head of an Eagles cornerback and underneath the safety. Good accuracy there.
That accuracy is something Mayfield flashed again later on in the fourth quarter, hitting wide receiver C.J. Board for 19 yards:
?: FOX pic.twitter.com/3CIbbhmJKg
— NFL (@NFL) August 24, 2018
Mayfield was also sacked twice on the night, one of those resulting in a Cleveland-recovered fumble in the waning seconds of the first quarter. Again, on a play-action play — something we’ll likely see Mayfield operate often his rookie season. And while Mayfield’s receiving targets weren’t able to create much separation, Mayfield had plenty of room to escape the pocket and extend the play. He merely didn’t feel the rush there.
Of course, the biggest worry was the lone interception he tossed on the night:
?: FOX pic.twitter.com/WlG0lazNVs
— NFL (@NFL) August 24, 2018
There’s an explanation for the pick, however.
Slot receiver Derrick Willies is running a crossing route just across the line of scrimmage from left to right. Go take a look again, as Willies is bumped off his route by an Eagles linebacker. Mayfield’s ball placement would have been in the exact spot Willies would have been had he not been hit.
Willies was Mayfield’s hot read on the play, as the pocket was collapsing… again. If Mayfield had an extra second, or so, he likely would have seen wide receiver Da’Mari Scott (No. 10) cutting towards the middle of the field with a wide-open passing lane. But that option wasn’t available with the pressure.
If Mayfield is at fault for the interception, however, it would have been with the lack of anticipation seeing Willies running right towards a defender. But that’s something that can be learned in time.
So, the consensus?
Mayfield played well enough to showcase why the Browns tabbed him their quarterback of the future. The intangibles are largely there, and most of his mistakes fall on the lack of a supporting cast, namely up front along the O-line.
The young quarterback can feel disappointed, yes. But not discouraged. He played better than the stats would indicate.