Baker Mayfield’s struggles during the beginning of the Cleveland Browns season was an early storyline, but he appears to be finally rounding into form.
A big reason for the Cleveland Browns struggles at the beginning of the season was the ineffectiveness of the offense, most notably the passing attack. Even with the addition of Odell Beckham Jr., Baker Mayfield was struggling to get the ball downfield.
The offense was stagnant, outside of Nick Chubb gaining chunks of yardage running the football. But there was no balance as Mayfield and the passing offense could not gather any momentum at the start of the season.
Mayfield was one of the worst starting quarterbacks statistically during the first six games of the season. Mayfield completed 56.57 percent of his pass attempts for 1,496 yards, five touchdowns, and 11 interceptions for a quarterback rating of 66.0. He was also sacked 16 times and fumbled three times.
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His struggles were mostly associated with poor offensive line play, causing Mayfield to bail out of the pocket before he could get through his reads. But another reason for his struggles was because of defensive coordinators taking away what worked for Mayfield last season. As the defenses were making adjustments for Mayfield, Mayfield was behind in making his own adjustments.
But the bye week came at a good time for Mayfield and the offense. Although they lost to the Patriots out of the bye week, Mayfield’s performance against the dominant New England defense showed signs of growth from the quarterback. He was taking what was given to him and not forcing the ball into tough windows.
Since the bye week, Mayfield’s performance has been a big turnaround compared to what it was at the beginning of the season. In the four games since the bye week, Mayfield has completed 62.94 of his pass attempts for 898 yards, six touchdowns, and one interception (which came on a bungled jet sweep touch pass against New England) for a quarterback rating of 91.8. He has also been sacked 10 times.
Mayfield is no longer turning the ball over at the rate he was because he is not forcing as many throws. He is still making aggressive throws, but they are being put in areas where it is hard for defenders to make plays.
The Cleveland offense is starting to take more shots downfield and using play-action to create more windows for Mayfield. With the effectiveness of Cleveland’s rushing attack, play-action passing concepts are starting to generate more success for the Browns, including opening up more downfield shots.
Mayfield was going to need to turn his season around if the Browns wanted to have the success they need during the second half of the season. And as Mayfield has had more success, the Browns offense is generating more chances for points.
The Browns can only hope Mayfield used the bye week to find where he was leaving plays on the field and made adjustments to what defenses were giving him. If that is the case, the Browns may have a better shot of making a run during the second half of the season than many believe. Mayfield emerging from the sophomore slump is the key to the rest of Cleveland’s season.