Over the past two years, Cleveland Browns Head Coach Hue Jackson has replied primarily on rookie quarterbacks to start for him. Last year, second-round pick DeShone Kizer won the starting job ahead of two second-year quarterbacks, one of whom was Cody Kessler, a rookie in 2016 who started the majority of that season after the first- and second-string quarterbacks were injured.
Jackson has been fighting hard not to force another rookie into the starting lineup despite drafting Baker Mayfield with the first-overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. But he did name his newest quarterback the backup to Tyrod Taylor, whom they acquired before the draft to be their starter in 2018.
And as you might have seen at the end of the season finale of Hard Knocks, the head coach also seemed to allude to the possibility of there being even more opportunity for Mayfield.
“I’m going to keep creating situations for you to even do more”, he told the rookie. “You keep doing your part every day. This is going to be your life for a long time, so I hope you understand the opportunity that’s in front of you right now. But you’ve earned it. I’m not just giving it to you. You’ve earned it”.
That conversation came privately after Jackson addressed both of his backup quarterbacks together—the other being veteran Drew Stanton—to inform them that Mayfield would be the backup. He dismissed Stanton before addressing Mayfield with the above message.
So what exactly did Jackson mean when he said he was going to create situations that would allow the rookie first-overall pick to “do more”? Is he suggesting that he intends to make use of him on the field this season? That is seemingly the plan in Baltimore with Lamar Jackson being named Joe Flacco’s backup.
It goes without saying that the long-term aspiration is for Mayfield to be in the starting lineup. He figures to be the team’s starter as early as the start of next season. It’s certainly not out of the question that he ends up commanding the starting position by the end of this year, and there is always the possibility of injuries. Especially if they start a rookie undrafted free agent at left tackle.
If Jackson plans to use Mayfield as part of the offense in some form or fashion, it will be very interesting to see in what kind of package that might occur. Would he and Taylor be on the field at the same time together? Would one of them be asked to play another role?