Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield may have felt like the world was at his fingertips following a rookie season in which he made a strong case for Rookie of the Year honors. Mayfield and the Browns were in the media constantly last off-season. His sophomore campaign was a humbling experience, however. Now, entering an all-important Year 3, the Oklahoma product is relatively under-the-radar and embracing a much softer approach to regular season preparation.
"I have a different approach to this year. I think everybody who has been interviewed on our team has hit the nail on the head over and over about it is time to work. It is time to do our thing, instead of talking about it," Mayfield explained during a conference call with media Wednesday. "This is the first media thing I have done just because there is no need to be talking about it. It is just time to go do it. Right now, it is kind of moving in silence, which is fine with me. That is how I used to do it before getting on a bigger stage so I am happy to get back to those roots and like I said earlier, get back to the fundamentals to where I can accomplish the goals when the season comes around."
COVID-19 and the corresponding quarantine has been the great equalizer because everyone is dealing with the same circumstances. Cleveland's quarterback has found himself going back to the basics.
"There has been a lot of learning throughout this process. During all this, it has kind of made everybody go back to the just shear fundamentals. You can't do so many complex drills and all the stuff you might and everybody might not have the same equipment, but we can teach the very base fundamentals of what this new coaching staff wants to do and go from there. I think that has been the best thing is essentially just getting back to the basics."
Offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt had previously worked with Aaron Rodgers and Andy Dalton. The coach made a small change -- left foot forward -- to their shotgun stances and is asking the same of his new signal caller. Mayfield finally had a chance to create some muscle memory this month when nine teammates joined him in Texas for workouts.
Head coach Kevin Stefanski will likely be robbed of the opportunity to get some additional work with his team; an allowance granted to first year head coaches. Mayfield acknowledged that the coach has done a wonderful job of engaging players during uncertain times.
"Kevin is obviously an extremely sharp guy. He is able to relate to everybody. That is one of the best parts about him and being around him so far. Just hearing his message, everything he does is with a purpose," Mayfield explained. "It is a very deliberate message, and he has everybody believing in that on the staff. I think that is how the foundation should be set, and he has done an unbelievable job of that. Scheme wise with him establishing the run, everything he did in Minnesota and what that does for the rest of the game and opening it up in the play action, the pass game and also just controlling the clock, they were a very efficient team for the last few years. That is kudos to him."
The anticipated implementation of a wide zone blocking offense should suit the personnel of the AFC North franchise. The Browns have a strong run game with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt as well as a quarterback that operates most efficiently in play-action.
"I think it matches up very nicely with being in control, getting checks in the run game and just being efficient. Last year, I know, was not a great year for turnovers, but I have always prided myself on not turning the ball over. That is something in the conversations we have had is where we do take our shots, it has to be smart decisions and there is nothing wrong with throwing an incompletion every once in a while. Scheme wise, I think my skillset matches up to that very well and also how he is coaching it. I think it is going to be a great fit."
It is unknown when organized team activities will return but there are more important considerations. Until told otherwise, Mayfield is readying to play the Ravens in Week 1.
"I am expecting to have a full season to be quite honest with you. I don't know if we will have anything in the offseason. I know there are rumors going around about a possible minicamp or things like that. I am staying optimistic because the world needs sports. We need to be safe with that in mind, but I think hopefully soon it will start to open up and we will have football back again," he finished.
In 2019, Mayfield completed 317 of 534 passes (59.4-percent) for 3,827 yards, 22 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. His completion percentage and touchdowns were down and interceptions were up. He also took 15 more sacks than the prior year.