Should the Browns be worried about Baker Mayfield?

Cleveland Browns

Baker Mayfield and the Browns were the darlings of the NFL offseason. After the team’s 2-3 start, it’s time to ask questions about the “star” quarterback.

The Browns and Baker Mayfield came into the 2019 season with massive expectations. Neither the team nor its starting quarterback have come anywhere close to meeting them after five games. Some of the criticism for the team’s disappointing start has deservedly fallen on the former No. 1 overall pick.

It’s not time for the Browns to panic over Mayfield’s struggles, but it is fair for fans and team officials to start asking some serious questions about his play. He’s regressed significantly in his second season in the league. If he didn’t have the pedigree of being a top draft pick, his struggles this year might have already landed him on the bench.

Everywhere you turn in Mayfield’s stat sheet you see reason for alarm. The former Oklahoma star is only completing 55.9 percent of his passes. Even more concerning is the fact that he’s only thrown four touchdowns compared to his eight interceptions. His ugly stat line can be topped off with his inability to push the ball downfield. Mayfield is only averaging 7.7 yards per pass attempt on the young season. A quarterback armed with Odell Beckham at wide receiver should be able to top that figure with ease.

In fairness to Mayfield, part of his struggles are absolutely tied to the inability of his offensive line to provide him with adequate protection. He’s already been sacked 16 times in just five games. When you watch the Browns offense operate it’s clear that Mayfield doesn’t get a solid pocket to throw from very often. If Cleveland really wants to get the most they can from Mayfield in the long-haul they’ll need to invest heavily into their offensive line. This year’s team has fallen victim to the temptation of assembling stars at the skill positions before building a reliable unit who can block for them.

The team’s bad offensive line doesn’t excuse Mayfield entirely though. He simply hasn’t been the same guy he was during the second half of the 2018 season. Even when he gets reasonable protection, Mayfield never looks comfortable and settled. Predictably, that’s led to quite a few erratic throws.

His play outside the pocket hasn’t been any better. Making pinpoint throws on the run was one of Mayfield’s most important skills coming out of college. His propensity to make plays on the edge has evaporated in 2019. It might be time for Freddie Kitchens to give his quarterback some easy throws on the run. If the Browns can’t protect their quarterback, getting him on the move is going to be a necessity rather than a luxury.

Next: Nick Bosa trolled the heck out of Baker Mayfield

The Browns season isn’t over at 2-3, but it is on life support. The long-term ability of Baker Mayfield to be the team’s star quarterback is significantly more important than what happens in 2019 though. The organization shouldn’t panic about their alleged star signal caller yet, but it’s time to take some concrete steps to evaluate his ability to be the franchise star they want Mayfield to be.

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