AFC North

Baker Mayfield is Playing Like a Veteran

Baker Mayfield’s last two games have been tremendous. Just look at his stat line:

78.3 Comp Pct
10.3 Yards Per Attempt
7 TD
0 INT
149.2 QB Rating

That’s great for any quarterback. It’s off the charts for a rookie making his 7th and 8th career starts.

Against the Bengals on Sunday, Mayfield showed the traits of both a mature pocket passer that can keep an offense on schedule, and a playmaker who can go off script when a play breaks down.

The below throw is great example of several of those pocket passing traits. Mayfield saw the field clearly, threw with anticipation, and put the ball in a spot where only his receiver could get it.

1_Baker vs zone - ball placement.gif

That’s a mature quarterback play. Mayfield was aware of the flat defender and the safety, and he put the ball in a spot that forced his receiver to settle in the void of the zone. Had he led him further towards the sideline, that underneath defender could have been a factor. Lots of quarterbacks either wouldn’t attempt this throw or would make the wrong type of throw to beat the coverage.

A subtle part of Mayfield’s game that was on display Sunday was his ability to move defenders. We saw him do this multiple times to create seemingly easy completions.

On the below play, keep your eyes on Mayfield and Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict (#55). Mayfield initially kept his shoulders pointed towards the center of the field towards his inside #3 receiver, getting Burfict to move with him. He then quickly moved right to the resulting void in the underneath zone.

Mayfield1

Screen Shot Courtesy of NFL.com Gamepass

6_Baker Moving Underneath.gif

On a 3rd-down play later in the game, Mayfield did something similar – this time to the flat defender. Watch the circled defender react to Mayfield’s initial movement to throw outside, creating the throwing lane inside.

Mayfield2

Screen Shot Courtesy of NFL.com Gamepass

7_Baker moving underneath again.gif

These particular throws required quickness. The reading of the defense, decision making, footwork and release all had to be quick.

On this next throw, keep your eyes on Mayfield and Bengals safety Brandon Wilson (#40). Again, watch Wilson move in response to Mayfield.

Mayfield3

Screen Shot Courtesy of NFL.com Gamepass

8_Baker Shoulder Roll high low.gif

Mayfield created several throwing lanes on the day by getting defenders to move. It doesn’t just take blatant pump fakes to move defenders. Quick feet, eyes, and body positioning all get the job done too. These are subtle, mature traits being exhibited by a rookie.

The plays above show how Mayfield can provide consistency to an offense. The next several plays show how he can make an offense work when the design of a play breaks down. Mayfield had quite a few of these against Cincinnati.

On the play below, watch how Mayfield’s first instinct when he moved was to keep his eyes downfield, looking to throw.

2_Baker 2nd-chance play 1.gif

That’s a pretty good touch pass moving to the left. This next one is a bullet while moving left:

3_Baker 2nd chance play moving left TD.gif

Again, the downfield focus helped Mayfield here. You can also get a good look at how he squared his shoulders to his target, helping him make a deadly accurate throw.

Mayfield can throw while moving to the right too, by the way:

5_Baker rolling right TD

4_Baker ez throw on run escape

That second play showed Mayfield’s elusiveness, and again, his ability to be extremely accurate throwing on the run. Hell of a ball there.

Not every play call works as designed. A quarterback needs the ability to keep plays alive and take advantage of a defense’s inability to cover for more than a few seconds. As long as the generation of these second-chance plays comes as a last resort, the ability to create them can help separate great quarterbacks from good ones. These types of plays can be made both from the pocket and on the run. The key is moving with the intent to throw, something Mayfield has shown the natural ability to do.

The Browns are stopping a lot of ugly franchise streaks this year, and Baker Mayfield’s performance is a significant reason for that. Cleveland is actually in the playoff discussion. Whether or not they can make what would be an unbelievable run to the postseason, the Browns appear to have finally solved their quarterback woes.

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