Austin Hooper has been drawn to Cleveland Browns QB Baker Mayfield
Last season, Baker Mayfield did not have the season he would’ve wanted, and the Cleveland Browns passing attack in general had their issues. While wideouts Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry were seemingly affected some by ongoing sports hernia and hip ailments which likely affected efficiency, and Mayfield himself had ongoing accuracy problems, lack of tight end capability didn’t help.
Mayfield didn’t have David Njoku much in 2019, who had very good rapport with Mayfield in 2018, in what was Mayfield’s rookie season. In that campaign, Njoku had 56 receptions for 639 yards and four touchdowns.
Last season, though, Njoku went down with a wrist injury in Week 2 at the New York Jets, and in totality, only appeared in four games in 2019, which seemed to factor some into Mayfield’s struggles.
Then-head coach Freddie Kitchens and rampant offensive line issues, particularly at the starting tackle spots with Greg Robinson and Chris Hubbard, didn’t aid Mayfield’s play either, though. New starting tackle arrivals Jack Conklin and presumably first-rounder Jedrick Wills Jr. should be considerable upgrades at those spots, however, even with Wills, who is a pretty polished prospect, moving to the left side.
Also on the plus side even after an initially requested a trade, it appears that based on a recent tweet, of which DPD’s Randy Gurzi hit on, that Njoku has fully locked into being with the Browns once again. That was nice to hear as a fan of the Brown and Orange, as when healthy, Njoku is another playmaker for Mayfield and the Browns to have at their disposal that is a notable red zone target and after the catch weapon.
Additionally, though, another key playmaker for Mayfield and Cleveland to have in their arsenal is of course offseason free agent acquisition, Austin Hooper. Hooper had two straight Pro Bowl seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, and in 2019, had 75 catches for 787 yards.
He also was tied for the third in the NFL with six redzone touchdowns last season, per Pro Football Reference, which makes the prospects of him in that area for Mayfield especially enticing.
Moreover, recent comments by Hooper about Mayfield are promising for the Cleveland Browns.
Based on recent comments from Hooper regarding Mayfield, the two could have good on-field chemistry pretty early on in 2020. Here was what Hooper said in that realm about the Browns QB 1, per ESPN’s Jake Trotter.
Hooper clearly highlighted Mayfield/his skill set and/or arm, along with his “swag” as key reasons why he signed with the Cleveland Browns. While those are nice compliments from Hooper about Mayfield and of course show love to the young signal-caller, we’ll have to see how the two work as a passer-receiver combo on the field, of course.
Fortunately, Mayfield has shown previously with the Browns and in his collegiate career, especially at Oklahoma, that he’s had a ton of success throwing to tight ends. Last season hopefully wasn’t indicative of him having lingering issues in that realm, though.
Plus, a reliable pass catcher in Hooper, who had a healthy catch rate of 77.3 percent, should help and Njoku being locked-in again wouldn’t hurt for chain-moving and to pair with Landry, who hopefully can go Week 1 in relation to his hip, and Beckham.
Along with the Hooper comments above via Trotter, a tweet from Trotter involving Hooper staying a few weeks this summer at Mayfield’s home in Austin, Texas would seem to play into good on-field chemistry. That’s at least to some extent early on and this would appear promising for the Cleveland Browns, too.
While the novel coronavirus pandemic has obviously impacted NFL teams, and includes lack of preseason action, it’s somewhat comforting to know Hooper and Mayfield got further acclimated from a passer-receiver standpoint.
That’s a positive, and although there could take some time for Mayfield and Trotter to have a well-established rapport in-game, one would think that Hooper should mesh well. That’s even more so in a Stefanski system, who should have input anyhow even if offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt primarily calls plays, that is tight end-friendly. That’s also with how Nick Chubb, and to some degree Kareem Hunt, should continually open up plenty of high percentage play-action throws throughout games to ideally tight ends more, too.
The Mayfield-Hooper connection should be a productive pairing and one would think should only aid Beckham and others, and again, these Hooper comments regarding Mayfield are promising for the Browns.
Lets hope Mayfield can be more consistent game-to-game, series-to-series and definitely not end up with the second-most interceptions in the league in 2020 and impact winning.