Baker Mayfield is proving to be wise beyond his years and well worth the Cleveland Browns’ No. 1 overall pick a year ago.
At the team’s mandatory minicamp on Tuesday, Mayfield spoke to the media, addressing the rapidly growing expectations this season and his role.
“This is the time that I looked forward to, being that guy,” Mayfield said. “I’ve got to earn that respect from everybody. We’re going to have new faces in that locker room, and I’ve got to continue to work every day. It’s not like I’m just that guy now. I’ve got to continue to work every day and to show people that I have that same mindset.”
This offseason is a different world compared to what Mayfield entered into last year — being the second string quarterback on a team that was coming off an 0-16 season.
Now, there’s hope and realistic expectations that the Browns can break a postseason drought that extends back to 2002.
“It’s looking at the experiences and the things I saw last year during the games, being able to compare and grow and learn from those mistakes,” Mayfield said. “So like right now, certain looks that I saw last year, being able to handle it differently. Obviously, the more reps the better, if you handle it the right way.”
After usurping Tyrod Taylor as the starter in Week 3, Mayfield passed for 3,725 yards and had 27 touchdowns to 14 interceptions. If it were not for the Giants’ running back Saquon Barkley, Mayfield would have surely been rewarded with rookie of the year honors.
“There’s certain things within my footwork, my drop, my timing,” Mayfield said. “Just testing things out with my eyes, just little details here and there, nuances that I’m testing out a little bit.”
And he’s holding people accountable, including veteran running back Duke Johnson Jr., who maintained at minicamp that we would like to be dealt to another team.
Johnson — a third down specialist for the Browns — requested a trade after Kareem Hunt was picked up in the offseason, seeing his role in the offensive shrinking to an insignificant size.
“It’s not awkward. It’s self-inflicted,” Mayfield said. “I hope he does his job.”
“If someone wants to be here, they’ll be here,” Mayfield added. “You got guys in our locker room that are dying to get playing time and dying to be here. Duke has been here for years but it’s about what are you doing right now.”
Head coach Freddie Kitchens agreed that Mayfield is a leader for the team, but noted that going the leadership will be a team effort.
“I think they better take him as a leader. Baker is not the only leader we have on the team. We have other people that lead, too,” Kitchens said. “If we throw the ball to Odell, he better be a leader when he is catching the ball because he is leading something when he has the ball in his hand. Nick Chubb is leading something. (Guard) Joel Bitonio is leading something. (Center) JC Tretter is leading something. Now you want me to start … Nobody wants to talk about our defense, but do we want to talk about Myles Garrett? Want to talk about Larry Ogunjobi? Want to talk about Olivier Vernon? What about Sheldon Richardson? What about our two (linebackers) we drafted (LBs Sione Takitaki and Mack Wilson). What about our two corners and our safety? Let’s talk about our defense a little bit because they are pretty damn good, too, or they are going to be.”
There’s still a lot for Mayfield to learn, but the former Heisman winner is living up to the hype so far.