You couldn’t watch Baker Mayfield on Thursday night without also realizing he shouldn’t have been playing at all.
The 16 preseason games on Thursday were played mostly by guys who won’t make 53-man rosters over the weekend … and the No. 1 overall pick of the draft. The Cleveland Browns are being oddly stubborn about their decision to start Tyrod Taylor and keep Mayfield in a backup role. So Mayfield played against the Detroit Lions, probably because he needed the reps the Browns refuse to give him with the starters, not even in practice.
Mayfield looked good again, and it’s clear the NFL stage isn’t too big for him. He played the first half and made some very nice plays. Then he took a seat for the second half, and because the Browns are being strange about this whole situation, who knows when we’ll see Mayfield play again. It kind of stinks for NFL fans, because he’s pretty exciting.
Baker Mayfield has shown his talent this offseason
Maybe Mayfield will fail spectacularly once he gets a shot in the regular season, when defenses get more complex and he’s not going against backups. But the little bit we saw in the preseason showed Mayfield looks comfortable in NFL action.
Mayfield didn’t look like most of the other quarterbacks playing around the NFL on Thursday. He once again showed tremendous accuracy on many of his throws, starting with his first pass to “Hard Knocks” hero Devon Cajuste. He hit Cajuste with a nice, accurate throw in rhythm for 41 yards. Mayfield also made quick decisions and got the ball out. He moves around the pocket but does so with a purpose, keeping his eyes downfield looking for someone to throw to. He looks like a No. 1 overall pick should look. He hasn’t been perfect, but he hasn’t been playing with perfect teammates either.
When the Browns scored early in the second quarter to take a 17-0 lead, they had 218 yards of offense. Mayfield had the Browns’ offense moving with ease. He finished Thursday night’s game 9-of-16 for 138 yards. He finished the preseason 35-of-61 for 501 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Not too bad.
Browns being stubborn about Mayfield starting
Nothing against Taylor, who is a fine NFL quarterback himself, but Mayfield should be starting from Week 1 on. No. 1 overall picks don’t sit anymore. Some of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, from Andrew Luck, Cam Newton and Matthew Stafford, played right away as rookies without any question.
Mayfield should be playing too. There will be mistakes, as we’ve seen in the preseason. But the Browns should be willing to live with that. Taylor is playing because the Browns are 1-31 and that hangs over the franchise. Jackson presumably feels like his job is on the line. So the veteran plays over the rookie, even when it makes very little sense in the big picture.
Mayfield is not a finished product, but he looks like everything the Browns thought they were getting when they took him No. 1 overall. Yet, the Browns are acting like they have no intention on playing him this season.
When will Mayfield play again?
When Mayfield plays is out of his control at this point. He did everything he could do during the preseason. Again, it wasn’t perfect, but his ability was evident. This wasn’t a rookie who was incapable of running an offense and needs to sit for his own good. He’s as ready as many other rookie quarterbacks over the past few years who have played right away.
Mayfield will wait his turn, however long that lasts. It’s probably a good bet that Mayfield will get his turn to start at some point this season, because it would be embarrassing if the No. 1 overall pick sits all year. Since 2006, only two first-round picks at quarterback haven’t started a game as a rookie: Brady Quinn and Jake Locker. It didn’t help those two. Sitting and learning is outdated, especially with someone as skilled and comfortable as Mayfield looks.
The Browns are taking an approach that most other teams wouldn’t take in 2018. It’s especially confusing now that we’ve seen how good Mayfield looks on an NFL field. But all we can do is wait until the Browns play the exciting rookie, whenever that is.
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