It’s apparent that 2020 is a prove-it year for Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield.
We get it. 2019 was filled with sky high expectations for the Cleveland Browns, but the Browns flopped. The squad just couldn’t get it together when they really needed it, and then-head coach Freddie Kitchens was a disaster.
Who would’ve honestly predicted Cleveland to go 6-10 in 2019? Really? Well that’s what transpired, and Cleveland has seemingly moved on, and Baker Mayfield, in particular, needs to be much better. After the quarterback knocked the door down in year 1, Mayfield and the Browns passing attack were disappointing in his second season.
Mayfield and Odell Beckham Jr. were often not on the same page, and though Beckham dealing with a sports hernia injury didn’t help, Mayfield and him underwhelmed, anyhow. A passer rating of 69.0 on Mayfield passes to Beckham demonstrated that.
All together, while at times they weren’t entirely his fault, Mayfield was second in the NFL in interceptions with 21, and only Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills had a lower completion percentage than Mayfield among qualifying quarterbacks. Nobody would consider Allen a surgeon from an accuracy standpoint, either.
It was clearly not all on Mayfield, as Cleveland’s offensive line was far from spectacular, as then-starting left tackle Greg Robinson and Chris Hubbard on the other side struggled mightily in pass protection, in particular.
In any case, it’s abundantly clear that 2020 is an ever-crucial season for Mayfield, as Colin Cowherd of Fox Sports’ The Herd with Colin Cowherd previously hit on, of which DPD’s Grant Puskar agreed with, too. Puskar was in agreement about Cowherd emphasizing that Mayfield essentially needs to get to the postseason with these talented Browns in 2020.
Along those lines, Mayfield and Beckham should have better chemistry and Mayfield and Jarvis Landry should be more on the same page in their connections game-to-game, albeit Landry fighting through a hip injury last season didn’t aid him, but he’s as tough as they come. Regardless of what plays out with David Njoku, Mayfield should have a great tight end in Austin Hooper, too. Hooper had 75 catches for 787 yards and six touchdowns for the Atlanta Falcons in 2019, and he should be an outstanding redzone target for Mayfield, most notably.
Needless to say, 2020 is a make-or-break year for the Cleveland Browns starting QB in Mayfield, as Pro Football Focus highlighted.
In a recent piece by Pro Football Focus’ Steve Palazzolo in which he ranked the projected 2020 NFL starting quarterbacks in tiers, Mayfield was in the crowded third tier. For context, quarterbacks in that third tier fit this mold according to Palazzolo.
“Volatile or conservative quarterbacks who will rely even more heavily on supporting cast and playcalling. Tier 3 quarterbacks can post top-10 production in any given year in the right situation.”
Others in this tier included the New England Patriots’ Cam Newton, rookie Joe Burrow of the Cincinnati Bengals, the Tennessee Titans’ Ryan Tannehill, the Las Vegas Raiders’ Derrick Carr, Jared Goff of the Los Angeles Rams and others.
The key takeaway from this piece from Palazzolo was he fully stressed how this is an ever-crucial campaign for Mayfield. Palazzolo did seemingly note how his tough 2019 wasn’t all on Mayfield, though, and after 2019, Palazzolo did reference how he said “it would not be a surprise to see him return to form despite his setback” in year 2 with the Cleveland Browns.
From there, here was what Palazzolo said in relation to the upcoming 2020 campaign for Mayfield, and this said it all, really, to echo Cowherd and Puskar’s takes.
“It’s a pivotal year for Mayfield after he took a downturn last season. The Browns are surrounding him with an improved offensive line and a new offensive system to go with a strong group of pass-catchers at all levels of the field. Mayfield’s 2019 season wasn’t as bad as the stats showed, but there was a clear dropoff in his performance. We’ve graded three college seasons and two NFL seasons for Mayfield, and 2019 was clearly his worst of the bunch. However, given his track record of success, it will not surprise if he bounces back with a big year in 2020.”
This is no breaking news to the Cleveland Browns, who went out and signed Jack Conklin to fill the starting right tackle spot and drafted hopefully their left tackle of the future in Jedrick Wills Jr. Hopefully Mayfield doesn’t unnecessarily go to pressure and evade previously clean pockets as a result, as Palazzolo seemed to allude to after his last season.
Mayfield has one of the game’s best running backs in Nick Chubb to hand it off still to a bunch as well, and seemingly a play-calling upgrade in newish head coach Kevin Stefanski and/or offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt.
Mayfield should be comfortable with a staff that suits his strengths, via quick throws and throwing to the tight end early and often. Also having Kareem Hunt in a much bigger role, especially in the passing game, will be quite the safety valve for Mayfield. Mayfield should ideally be able to hit deep shots to Beckham more regularly with better protection, too.
Moreover, with a newly-fortified offensive line, more competent offensive staff and a full stock of weaponry and better chemistry with wideouts, hopefully, Mayfield needs to get it done in 2020.
Frankly, Mayfield should be shooting for a 4,000-plus yard campaign and/or eclipsing Brian Sipe’s team record 4,132-yard 1980 season. In addition, he should be looking for 28-plus touchdowns with the pass-catchers he has and at least on paper, a much better offensive line. A full season of Myles Garrett being involved wouldn’t hurt, either, though, and hopefully, Cleveland can have Denzel Ward and/or Olivier Vernon be active more than in 2019.
At any rate, with an added postseason team, too, to go with the talent around him offensively, Mayfield should be equipped to lead the Cleveland Browns to the postseason. That’s if the season can play out, in regards to the management of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
As Palazzolo stressed, if the season can play out, this is truly a “pivotal year” for the Browns starting quarterback. If Mayfield can’t have a bounce back season in this upcoming one, then Cleveland would be fully in the right to question if he can ever be their QB-1 from there on out.
Browns fans should expect Mayfield to be up to the task, though, with what he showed on the big stage in college and how he then broke the NFL passing touchdown record for a rookie in 2018.