Baker Mayfield shines, leads impressive TD drives in preseason debut

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Anthony Sulla-Heffinger
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – After Saquon Barkley rushed for 39 yards on his very first NFL play, the bar was set pretty high for No. 1 pick Baker Mayfield.

The former Heisman Trophy winner did not disappoint, playing the majority of the game in Cleveland’s 20-10 preseason win over the Giants.

After an uneventful first drive, Mayfield led the Browns on a 14-play, 72-yard drive in the second quarter that ended with a 10-yard touchdown pass to tight end David Njoku to give Cleveland a 13-3 lead.

“I put it up there for him and he made a great play,” Mayfield said. “He did a good job winning [the ball].”

Mayfield showed his ability to make plays both in and out of the pocket, extending the drive with his legs twice. On 3rd-and-6 from the Giants 27-yard line, Mayfield scrambled for a six-yard gain. On the very next set of downs, the former Oklahoma QB again scrambled to convert a 4th-and-2.

“I don’t think I was tempted [to run right away],” Mayfield said. “The natural thing for me is to try and find throwing lanes. That’s the vision as well, making sure I have the windows to throw in. The stuff they were running tonight they were in man coverage, that gives you throwing lanes, but it also gives you running lanes.”

In addition to his rushes, Mayfield completed two passes of more than 20 yards on the drive. The first, a 26-yard sideline throw to Rashard Higgins, came off play action. The second, Mayfield stepped up in the pocket for a 21-yard completion to fellow rookie Antonio Callaway.

After Tyrod Taylor led the first two drives, giving Cleveland a 7-3 lead, Mayfield played for most of the rest of the game. After taking over with 1:31 to play in the first quarter, the No. 1 overall pick led the Browns offense into the fourth quarter.

On Mayfield’s seventh and final drive, he showed he can run an efficient offense, going 3-for-3 through the air, including a 54-yard pass to Callaway for his second touchdown of the night. Mayfield finished 11-for-20, with 212 yards and two touchdowns. He added 13 yards rushing, including converting on two key fourth down plays throughout the night.

It was that final, speedy drive that had Browns head coach Hue Jackson excited.

“I like that,” Jackson said. “I can’t wait to watch the tape. I like quick scores.”

For the most part, Mayfield looked sharp, with his only mistake coming on a 3rd-and-15 where he took an ugly sack, losing 11 yards and pushing Cleveland out of field goal range.

All things considered, Mayfield seems to be adjusting to the NFL well.

“It’s definitely different,” Mayfield said. “I got into such a daily schedule in Norman, traveling with that team and doing every meeting. Doing your first couple of steps I was walking through it, making sure I was in the right place at the right time. I’m happy with how it went and excited to get into a groove here.”

While Mayfield is expected to sit most of his first season in the NFL in favor of the veteran Taylor, it’s a relief for Browns fans to see him playing this well, this early.

“I’m not surprised by anything that Baker does because I see it on the practice field,” Jackson said. “I’ve seen the throws he makes. This is just his first opportunity, he’ll grow from it.”