A lot of what happens in offseason training activities and minicamps simply doesn’t matter when you boil it down, but that doesn’t stop the hype and hyperbole trains from rolling down the tracks this time of year.
That’s exactly what’s happening in Cleveland with the Browns, who are coming off of an impressive 11-5 season resulting in a third-place finish in a tough AFC North before then beating the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Wild Card Round, 48-37, before being dispatched in the divisional round by the Kansas City Chiefs, 22-17.
Now, with expectations sky-high for the 2021 version of the Browns, offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt says fourth-year quarterback Baker Mayfield has a noticeable level of confidence to his game in minicamp and looks to build off of a strong 2020 season that saw him ascend into his role as a franchise quarterback.
“Definitely,” Van Pelt said when asked if Mayfield had a noticeable level of confidence during minicamp. “In the last seven or eight games last year, he really played really well. I think he now feels that. He understands what that looks like and how he has to operate within the system to be successful. Now that he realizes that, you see it more in practice.”
Though Mayfield does not seem to get the respect his play garnered last season, what will help with that is putting that high level of play together again in 2021. Down the stretch in 2020 from Weeks 7-17, Mayfield threw for 2,468 yards, 16 touchdowns and two interceptions, helping the Browns go 7-3 to reach the playoffs. In the playoffs, Mayfield added another 467 yards, four touchdowns and one interception as the Browns won their first playoff game in 26 years.
Now, Mayfield looks to build off of the success he had in head coach Kevin Stefanski’s system that relied heavily on the run game, play-action passing, and asks the QB to be efficient with the football, which Mayfield thrived in.
“He was impressive,” Van Pelt told reporters this week regarding Mayfield’s performance in minicamp. “There are a lot of areas and a lot of pass concepts that we wanted work on in this minicamp that maybe he did not completely own last year and wanted improvement in these plays. He has shown that. A lot of that is just working through progression and knowing where to go next if one and two are covered, and he got that accomplished in this camp. We are very happy with where he is right now.”
The Browns should be very happy with where he is right now, considering it appears that the Browns are set at QB now and into the future, assuming Mayfield lands a significant contract extension here in the near future. Of course, the real challenge is proving it again now that teams are gunning for the Browns.