The Cleveland Browns are staking the near-term future of their franchise on quarterback Baker Mayfield, whom they selected with the first-overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, determining that he was the best quarterback in the class ahead of Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, and Mason Rudolph.
It’s a good thing first impressions in OTAs don’t really count for much, though, because Mayfield’s first professional practice with a full squad did not go very well at all. The Oklahoma quarterback was picked off three times by his defensive teammates and had another two passes that were nearly intercepted as well.
According to Mary Kay Cabot, though, two of the three passes that were successfully intercepted were not entirely on the quarterback, the ball bouncing off of his targets’ hands. She does not mention if the targets themselves were well-placed or otherwise (high, for example).
Of a potential interception that he dropped, 2017 first-round safety Jabrill Peppers said that he “kind of tried to get a little highlight play instead of going up there and getting it, but still should have caught it”, so even if two of the three interceptions he threw were not his fault, he got lucky in other cases.
Cabot said that the Browns seemed to be working with Mayfield on specific things and in specific zones, it should be noted, including an emphasis on working in “the dangerous territory over the middle”, where a couple of his interceptions occurred.
Hue Jackson had Mayfield working as the number three quarterback behind Tyrod Taylor, for whom they traded, and Drew Stanton, signing as a veteran backup. The third-year head coach has been consistent in saying that Taylor is the team’s starter going forward for the 2018 season.
As for Taylor, the early reports about how he has looked have been positive. In fact, the general vibe has been that of a marked improvement in the play from the quarterback position as compared to last season, when their entire quarterback room was made up of inexperienced first- and second-year players.
The primary starter ended up being second-round rookie DeShone Kizer, a player who definitely would have benefitted from being able to sit for a year or two. He was traded to the Green Bay Packers in exchange for Damarious Randall. Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan, both second-year quarterbacks, were also traded.
All three of them started or played in games against the Steelers over the course of the past two seasons and lost. Now they have three new quarterbacks who will be given the opportunity to claim a rare victory over Pittsburgh, starting with the season opener.