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18-08-19 Baker Mayfield

Image Credit: usatoday.com

You learn by your mistakes and pre-season is one of those odd times for me as I’m trying to focus in on games to follow a team through the pre-season process but without coaching tape you miss a lot for certain positions. Still the benefit of following the Hard Knocks team is that you get another’s perspective on the game to what you saw in the following week’s episode and so on to the Cleveland Browns.

I’m still not sure about the Antonio Calloway saga as you never quite how much is created by the editing as yes he looked like a player carrying a secret in practice and then he gets pulled into a meeting with Hue Jackson and John Dorsey when the news of his police citation breaks. However, it didn’t look like he covered everything the police found in his car, and he was driving with a suspended licence. The coaches approach appears to be make him earn his place back on the team, so after an apology to the team he is made to play every down on offence. There was a clip of Todd Haley challenging Jarvis Landry to take Calloway under his wing as they needed him and it was what Larry Fitzgerald would do. I can’t help feeling that if Calloway was that important, and he did make a huge play for a touchdown, that the front office and coaches would be making a plan themselves to help the young rookie draft pick as a second troubled receiver is not what this franchise really needs.

In other bits from Hard Knocks that I made notes of whilst watching the game but failed to write up in covering last week’s Browns game was the two touchdowns for tight David Njoku who made a nice couple of catches. Also making a couple of good catches was Rashard Higgins. However, I couldn’t know that they were going to focus in on journeyman tight end Devon Cajuste and it was one of those end of game parts that wouldn’t grab you unless you knew the back story and you can’t help but pull for the guy and his family. It is always nice to see the human side of players and following on from our drumming linebacker from week one this week we had Njoku’s meditation and Myles Garrett professing that before he was a man who loved to hit people he was a boy who loved to write.

So onto this week’s game and the Browns hosted the Buffalo Bills in a game they lost but can take things from. The Browns started out the game well with the defence stopping the Bills from moving the ball and establishing the run, which they had struggled with last week. In fact both Carlos Hyde and Nick Chubb had multiple good runs and frankly they offence as a whole should have scored more than seven points in the first quarter. The balance of the Browns quarterback room looks really good with Tyrod Taylor being an excellent role model for Baker Mayfield to learn from in terms of how to be a pro but Mayfield continues to impress. For me it is his active feet as much as anything that impresses me as he has good pocket movement and whilst he can scramble it’s the shifting in the pocket and making the throw that makes it look like the Browns might finally have a franchise quarterback if Mayfield develops and the fact that they don’t have to throw him in will help with this development. This is particularly true as the Bills seemed to get a lot of pressure in this game and as the game went on the Browns found it harder to move the ball. In fact once Drew Stanton came into the game in the fourth quarter they basically failed to move the ball despite only being two points behind thanks to a missed extra point.

One of the things that is still troubling for the Browns is the penalties and mistakes the team is making. They had three offensive pass interference penalties in this game with the third by Cajuste wiping out a touchdown, which offsets the nice catch and run he had earlier in the drive that went for twenty-six yards. The defence was not immune either with mistakes in coverage costing them a touchdown when Nick O’Leary was wide open for the second time in the same drive. There were good moments on defence such as when linebacker Mychal Kendricks caught the eye penetrating through the offence line and making a tackle for a loss on a run play or safety Derrick Kindred blitzing from the edge for a sack and they were generally stout, but they will have to watch the line between aggressive and over aggressive if they want to win tight games.

I’m wary of the Hard Knocks effect that makes you think a team is better than it is through familiarisation and rooting for people you know better, but there was a real mixture of good and bad in this game. Still, next week’s third game is the dress rehearsal of pre-season and so is the game that we can take the most from. You can’t really know until the regular season gets going how a team will fare but whilst there are still plenty of questions surrounding the Browns and how the coaching staff is working, I can’t help feel they will be a tougher game this season but all the long suffering Browns want are wins.