Baker Mayfield has not been healthy for the majority of the season and Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt admitted some of the effects have “handcuffed” his quarterback.
Premier among the concerns has been the brace Mayfield is wearing on his non-throwing shoulder. Mayfield suffered a torn labrum and tuberosity fracture in the shoulder stemming from an attempted tackle on an interception.
“It definitely shows. It has definitely handcuffed him a little bit with his ability to get that left side out of the way. There are a couple of things that are unique to his throwing style that he does and he is successful doing it,” Van Pelt told reporters on December 31. “Those are technique things. Yeah, we can work on those.”
Mayfield is currently 24th in the NFL with a 86.1 QB rating and is coming off a four-interception performance against the Packers. Van Pelt said the injuries to Mayfield — which have also included his foot, knee and groin — have made it hard to evaluate his play.
“Hopefully, next year without the harness, you will see Baker back to normal with his normal throwing mechanics,” Van Pelt said. “It is definitely something that has hindered him. He has fought through. We have a lot of respect for the fact that he has battled through that, and we know he is injured. That is where I will leave that. Yeah, there are some things you can do to help him there. We have tried those, as well.”
Baker Mayfield Determined to be Better
Mayfield has been open about the fact that he hurt the Browns with the four interceptions. However, as Van Pelt pointed out, not all of them were entirely his fault, including the game-sealing pick that featured a blatant hold on Donovan Peoples-Jones.
“It is tough any time you throw four. You throw three or you throw one in a game, you feel terrible as a quarterback,” Van Pelt said. “The fact that there was potential PI on those, I guess you could asterisk it a little bit, but at the same time at the end of the day, we can’t turn the ball over, and he knows that as well as anybody. It is tough when you do. The thing you have to do is just shooters shoot. You have to keep shooting.”
Mayfield is ready to put that game behind him and focus on the next two, which are must-wins if the Browns want to have a chance to make the postseason.
“Any season is going to have its ups and downs,” Mayfield said on Thursday, December 30. “This one has had a little more drama. It comes down to handling your business, trying to find ways to win any possible way and doing that week in and week out. Right now, we are in a situation where it is very apparent that we have to win this game. That is our job right now, and we are focused on that.”
Browns See Larger Role for Rashard Higgins
The Browns receiving production has been well spread out this year and someone who could step up late is Rashard Higgins. The longest-tenured Browns pass-catcher has been a healthy scratch on occasion this season but notched a season-high five catches against the Packers last time out.
Van Pelt hinted Higgins could be more involved over the final weeks of the season.
“I think we can definitely rely on Higgy. He is a guy who just shows up and makes the plays when they come to him for the most part,” Van Pelt said. “I know he and Bake have a really good feel for each other, especially when it comes onto the field,” Van Pelt said. “I can see him stepping up here for us in the run here as we get down through these last few games of playing well. I do not know if it was anything he did during the course of the year that has not allowed him to be as productive, but I do know when his number is called, he makes plays for us.”
The Browns face the Steelers on Monday Night Football as a 3.5-point favorite.