Baker Mayfield may have seen playing time for the first time in his career during the Cleveland Browns’ last game, coming in to replace an injured Tyrod Taylor on Thursday Night Football, and even led the team to victory, but today will be his first start. In other words, the Baker Mayfield Era begins in earnest in Oakland.
The Browns are on the west coast today to pay a visit to the Oakland Raiders, a team who two seasons ago had legitimate Super Bowl aspirations but has gotten off to an 0-3 start this year under Jon Gruden taking over the reins once again.
Mayfield inherited a 14-point deficit when he checked into the last game and was able to rally for the come-from behind victory, but as several New York Jets players fairly pointed out, they had not game-planned to see him.
Whether that is justified or not, the point is that the Raiders will have scouted and planned for him as much as they possibly could—and they also had an extra few days to do it, since they are coming off of a Thursday Night Football game.
At the same time, he’s gotten the opportunity to full prepare as a starter for the first time as well, which includes the opportunity to take all of the first-team reps. He spoke to the team’s website in advance of making his first career start to answer a few questions.
“I don’t think you can put any words to describe how truly valuable it is to get the timing down and the chemistry down”, he said of the opportunity to get the full slate of first-team reps. “Also, just the talk in the huddle is the thing that goes beyond the scheme. It really matters. You’ve got to have your team together, you’ve got to believe in each other and you’ve got to trust each other. That’s the valuable stuff right there”.
So it’s the first time a defense has game-planned against him, and the first time he’s been game-planned to face a defense. In other words, it’s just the beginning. The come-from-behind victory—Cleveland’s first win of any kind in over a year—was huge for the franchise, make no mistake, but their aspirations with Mayfield are bigger than winning one game.
The Browns used the highest resource a team possibly could to bring him in with the belief that he was going to be the piece that begins to turn the franchise around. We are not going to know much of anything after today’s game, because it’s just too small of a sample size, but it is a first impression of sorts.