Baker Mayfield rejuvenated a lifeless Cleveland Browns offense in the second half against the New York Jets. With Tyrod Taylor, the Browns were averaging just 1.4 yards per attempt. When Mayfield came in, he averaged 8.7 yards per attempt. Big throw after big throw, Mayfield picked up yards in chunks as he led the Browns to a 21-17 comeback win.
Finally a quarterback Browns fans can feel good about.
The most interesting facet of Mayfield’s game is the way he’s able to create and sustain explosive passing plays despite not having great physical gifts. He doesn’t have the frame and athleticism of a Cam Newton or Patrick Mahomes’ arm, but he’s still able to make plays down the field.
Here’s how he does it.
Mayfield anticipates throws and is decisive with the football
The most noticeable difference between Taylor and Mayfield is their decisiveness throwing at the intermediate level of the field. Taylor has moments when he gets extremely conservative with the ball and holds it in the pocket, leading to sacks.
Mayfield shot life into the passing game by just attacking the throwing windows that naturally appeared throughout the second half. The anticipation Mayfield displayed throughout the night was incredible.
On this throw to Jarvis Landry, Mayfield waits for Landry to get behind the linebacker dropping into a zone before throwing a dart that allowed Landry to get yards after the catch. It’s a short throw, but accuracy and anticipation on the throw allowed Landry to get up the field for a first down.
Second-and-18 is a tough spot to play from for any quarterback, let alone a rookie seeing his first action after being thrown into the starting lineup mid-game. Once again, Mayfield finds Landry for a big gain.
Landry is running a crossing route over the middle of the field behind the Jets’ five-man rush. The middle of the field is left wide open and the defensive back covering Landry gave him a big cushion. As soon as Landry breaks towards the middle of the field, the ball is out of Mayfield’s hands.
These plays don’t require a howitzer arm — Mayfield can process a lot of information in a short amount of time. Quarterbacks that can digest information that quickly and act on it are always going to be able to create big plays.
Being accurate as hell helps too.
Mayfield almost always gives his receivers a chance on the ball
The throw isn’t perfect, but it’s pretty damn good. Mayfield has Landry (again) in one-on-one coverage up the seam against a safety. The throw is a little bit too far inside, but he throws it at the back of the safety’s helmet where he visually can’t make a play on the ball.
Landry jumps up, snatches the ball out of the air, and tucks the ball away to secure the catch. As soon as Mayfield finishes his drop, the ball is out. The anticipation on the throw was almost as important as his placement and accuracy.
One of Mayfield’s best throws on Thursday night wasn’t even caught. Pre-snap, Mayfield notices that he has man coverage to the outside with no real safety threat over the top.
As Antonio Callaway is running a “go” route up the sideline, Mayfield puts the ball in a spot where Callaway has a chance to make a play on the ball while leading him away from the cornerback looking for the ball. Hell of a throw, and one that needs to be caught by the rookie wide receiver.
When that accuracy and anticipation is paired with an inherent ability to make plays, special things happen on the field.
Mayfield just knows how to make plays
Some aspects of playing quarterback can’t be taught. Baker Mayfield has an innate ability to make throws on the move and his ability to handle pressure has already improved from his time at Oklahoma.
This broken play was one of his best of the night. He made some room for himself, juked Jordan Jenkins before he could get a sack, and delivered a strike for the first down. It doesn’t take a huge arm or elite athleticism to make plays outside the pocket — Mayfield is proof of that.
Obviously, one half of play is not enough to crown Mayfield as the next great quarterback, but he showed the ability consistently create big plays and attack the Jets’ defense. He didn’t get a chance to practice with the starting team in the preseason (oh, Browns), so his performance is even more impressive considering that fact.
Mayfield may not the most physically impressive quarterback, but that isn’t everything when it comes to making plays in the NFL. Mayfield’s exciting and efficient brand of football has given Browns fans life, hopefully he can continue as they travel to Oakland this week to take on the Raiders.