Matt Waldman’s RSP NFL Lens examines Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield preseason debut against the New York Giants.
Baker Mayfield has a strong debut in New York this week but we need to keep his performance in perspective. Otherwise, fans and media will get ahead of themselves the way they did with DeShone Kizer and Blake Bortles. Mayfield did a lot of good things:
- Avoided pressure efficiently, reset quickly, and found the open receiver.
- Recognized his physical limitations and threw the ball away — a good display of game management.
- Round his second read multiple times.
- Displayed decisive creativity in the red zone.
- Improvised effectively in off-script situations.
These all deserve the appropriate praise. Still, we can put his performance in a broader context and preach patience. Based on the analysis below here’s what we didn’t see enough:
- Avoiding, resetting, and delivering pinpoint accurate passes against tight man coverage.
- With the exception of one play, delivering the ball to wide-open receivers in stride when they had open field ahead.
- Throws that required him to really drive the ball.
- Advanced pre-snap diagnosing — most looks were pretty obvious.
Fans — especially Browns fans — will complain this is nitpicking. It’s nothing more than maintaining a standard when evaluating a performance and that standard is what the best quarterbacks in the league do. All teams want a top quarterback and you can’t determine how well a young quarterback played when grading him on a lower standard of play because he’s a rookie.
Mayfield performed well for a rookie in his preseason debut and the Giants tested him with pressure. He wasn’t tested significantly with disguised coverage or tight man coverage behind that pressure — the latter troubled him at Oklahoma. He also didn’t show consistent pinpoint accuracy and left yards on the field.
Can he get better? Absolutely, and we should expect it. However, any push to have Mayfield overtake Tyrod Taylor and start the opener is premature and foolish.
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