The Future is Here with Browns QB Baker Mayfield

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The Future is Here with Browns QB Baker Mayfield

liny195
 - Film Review You know the story by now: after Tyrod Taylor’s concussion against the New York Jets [url=http://www.clevelandbrownsteamonline.com/damarious-randall-jersey]Authentic Damarious Randall Jersey[/url] , Baker Mayfield saw his first NFL regular season action and demonstrated why he was the first overall pick. He went 17-23 for 201 yards, and even caught a pass. And most importantly, he led the Browns from a 14 point deficit to their first win in 635 days.As the Browns showcased a new franchise player on the field, they also showed a willingness to support him through offensive innovation. The NFL too often takes successful college quarterbacks and tries to fit them into Peyton Manning or Tom Brady prototypes, instead of putting them in position to be successful at what they have proven they can do. I believe Baker can eventually demonstrate a Manningesque grasp of NFL schemes, but why not copy the blueprint of teams like the Eagles (Nick Foles), Rams (Jared Goff), and Chiefs (Patrick Mahomes) who have made their Air Raid quarterbacks comfortable by adopting college concepts and shredded defenses in the process?On Thursday night, I was pleased to see a number of non-traditional offensive concepts on the field. These weren’t earth-shattering changes, and the Browns have at least flashed these concepts with Tyrod Taylor on the field. But it is easier to establish an identity when your offense is on the field for sustained drives, and I hope over time the Browns continue to shift in this direction.Shotgun Hurry-UpThough it was to be expected in a 2-minute situation, Mayfield’s first drive was exclusively no-huddle offense with the exception of a stoppage after Joel Bitonio’s fumble recovery. All 5 plays were run from a shotgun formation. The Air Raid cannon of coaches including Lincoln Riley at Oklahoma (and many non-Air Raid coaches at the college level) have adopted the use of spread formations and tempo on offense in order to press defenses to their breaking points, not just to score in the final 2 minutes. It seems the Browns are at least open to varying tempos and playing from the ‘Gun, which is a great sign.With Baker in the game the Browns played either no-huddle offense or from a shotgun formation on 30 snaps while only taking 14 traditionally-paced snaps from under center. This meant 68.2% of their snaps came either from a shotgun formation or from the no-huddle (or both). And not only did the Browns shift into a more aggressive style, they were more successful when they did.Defining success rate as 40% of the yards to-go on 1st down, 60% on 2nd down, or 100% on 3rd/4th downs (as Football Outsiders has done to evaluate running plays), the Browns were successful on 18 of 30 plays where they used a shotgun formation or the no-huddle, which is good for a 60% success rate. They were successful on only 3 of 14 plays from a traditional pace under center, which is good for only 35.7% success rate.I don’t have data for no-huddle plays folded into this, but with Baker in the game the Browns are running more shotgun than they did with Tyrod through week 2 (58%) and they are near the league average (63%). They would still have a ways to go to out-shotgun Green Bay (95%!) and Philadelphia (82%), but they are having success on offense when spreading it out and/or going fast.RPOsAnother well-documented advancement in offensive strategy has come in the form of RPOs (run pass options). These are essentially called run plays that also have a pass option built in. The Browns are introducing RPOs more this year than ever before. I’ll have a separate post detailing some of the specific plays [url=http://www.clevelandbrownsteamonline.com/denzel-ward-jersey]Womens Denzel Ward Jersey[/url] , but most of the Browns running plays had some sort of pass option built into the play on Thursday night.Outside of the red zone and the last drive where Mayfield and company were simply trying to kill the clock, the Browns ran 11 called running plays with Mayfield in the game. Of those 11, 8 incorporated some sort of pass option. I wrote a little about the way Mayfield and Oklahoma used RPOs off of their Counter run play here. And while Baker’s college offense relied upon Counter as its go-to run play, they probably ran even more RPOs off of their zone runs. Regardless, Baker has proven very capable of running RPOs. And with NFL teams already running them successfully, it seems like a no-brainer to continue down this road.CounterSpeaking of counter, we hadn’t seen a lot of it with Tyrod under center, but it made an appearance at least once in last Thursday’s game. Todd Haley has run Counter everywhere he has been, and it would be great to see him add in some of the wrinkles that Baker used at OU.Counter is a gap-blocked run that features three things:Misdirection away from the play in some formDown blocks to the playsideTwo pulling blockers who wrap around the front side of the play. Usually the backside guard kicks out while another player (a TE,FB, or the backside tackle) wraps around through the hole.The Browns ran Counter from a big set with 3 TEs and Carlos Hyde as the lone back. The pullers were LG Joel Bitonio and TE Orson Charles, who pull from the offense’s left (camera right). Bitonio’s job is to kick out the end man on the line of scrimmage, while Charles will wrap up the field to block any flowing pursuit.A number of things go wrong on this play that ultimately cause it to fail. The first is that pre-snap CB Morris Claibourne and OLB Jordan Jenkins switch places.On the snap, Jenkins flies around the edge, making it hard for Bitonio to adjust. However, Bitonio is able to redirect just enough to make Jenkins have to go around him, and Jenkins flies past RB Carlos Hyde.One of the nice parts about Counter is that the down blocks at the point of attack create double-teams on their way up to the second level. On this play RT Chris Hubbard and RG Kevin Zeitler double DE Henry Anderson on their way up to get LB Avery Williamson.However, Hubbard leans too hard into his double-team and is late to come off onto the linebacker, which allows the linebacker to cross Hubbard’s face.The final thing to go wrong on this play is that as Hyde evades Jenkins, he trips Charles. Unfortunately, as Charles is stumbling he can’t see the play develop and he cannot redirect to where he needs to be. If Charles can pick up a block he has the potential to make all the other mistakes disappear:Moving forwardIt will be very interesting to see what adjustments the Browns make to their offense now that Mayfield has earned the starting job. The Browns have made an investment in Mayfield and should continue to support him in every way possible, including designing an offense around what he does well. Continuing to evolve the offense will be important as opposing defensive coordinators adjust to what the Browns are doing.If last Thursday’s debut is any indication [url=http://www.clevelandbrownsteamonline.com/jc-tretter-jersey]http://www.clevelandbrownsteamonline.com/jc-tretter-jersey[/url] , there is some serious potential to update the playbook to go along with an updated depth chart.Would Baker Mayfield have led Browns to win over Steelers? Tyrod Taylor didn’t endear himself to Cleveland Browns fans in his first start with the team against the Pittsburgh Steelers. But there are a ton of factors to consider before even discussing a quarterback change so early in a season, including the team’s long-term stability.But that hasn’t stopped the speculation around whether the Browns might been more efficient offensively with Baker Mayfield behind center, which hypothetically might have given them a better shot at dethroning the Steelers.Shortly following the tie, I received numerous calls, texts, e-mails, and Tweets about what might have been if Mayfield had played instead of Taylor. The majority of them favored moving on from Taylor immediately.Now, FS1’s Skip Bayless may not bring the most credibility to the table. We know how Bayless and others in his industry use shocking and polarizing sports takes to drive their business. The hyperbole and generalizations are the medium they work with and are an unfortunate part of the deal if you follow those outlets.So, in what we can label the most unsurprising thing that happened in Week 1, Bayless led the charge supporting Mayfield starting over Taylor.Again, we know what this is, and it isn’t nuanced analysis. It’s Bayless stirring the pot and drawing more attention to himself. His general thesis is that Mayfield is more of a playmaker, so the Browns would have won the football game.There are so many problems with using that as support for your opinion, too many probably to list here. Interested by his attention grabbing Tweet, I decided to poll my followers to see where everyone else stands on the issue.I’d say I’m shocked at the results, but I’m not. Out of 875 votes (as of the time of this post), the overwhelming majority thinks the Browns would have won if Mayfield started the game. Not given the Browns a better shot to win, but would have won the game.Now, I am not going to defend Taylor’s play on Sunday. It was categorically insufficient to lead a team to a win in the NFL, but he should have been good enough to win given the team’s defensive success.The idea that Mayfield is a bigger playmaker than Taylor is opinion, not a fact. Mayfield has never played a down in the NFL, and Taylor’s legs and improvisation skills sure looked like the traits of playmaker [url=http://www.clevelandbrownsteamonline.com/joel-bitonio-jersey]http://www.clevelandbrownsteamonline.com/joel-bitonio-jersey[/url] , to these eyes at least.But we do know playing quarterback at a high level, or even a level proficient enough to win a game in which the Steelers gifted you on a silver platter, requires more than mobility and playmaking with your legs. Taylor, for the most part, looked slow in processing his reads and didn’t trust himself enough to make throws that were there—whether that was a result of the weather of his own decisionmaking. And there were some opportunities he saw and passed on in which maybe he could have pulled the trigger instead of taking seven sacks and being chased outside the pocket all afternoon.Was his offensive line perfect? Negative, they weren’t even good for much of the game. They had plenty of assignment lapses and lost battles, but Taylor had plenty of his own mistakes in failing to recognize pre-snap reads and also in understanding what the Steelers defense was doing to beat him.In short, it’s easy to conclude Taylor was not very good in Week 1 when using any kind of metric for evaluating quarterbacks. He made a couple good throws, missed a bunch of others, and ultimately threw a poor ball that could have put the Browns in position to win the game in regulation.He didn't, and they didn’t. He left it short of the sideline and Josh Gordon was boxed out by the defensive back despite having a step on him down the sideline. If Taylor makes that one throw, the Browns probably win, but there are no guarantees. I digress.The idea that Mayfield would have fared better, though, is an interesting but highly problematic proposition. Although he was the No. 1 pick, Mayfield was not groomed to start in Week 1—that’s a different conversation, we can only talk about the reality here—having played extremely sparingly with the first-team offense prior to the game.Should he have started? Maybe if Jackson had approached things differently and prepared for that possibility, but he didn’t, and Mayfield didn’t play. That alone makes me inclined to reject this question.But just for the sake of argument, would the Browns have won the game if Mayfield had been properly prepared?Throughout preseason Mayfield has flashed a strong arm and the awareness of a savvy vet. He hasn’t been perfect, although his ability to move up and make throws from the pocket has been promising for a rookie quarterback. He has put in the work and knows the playbook enough to deploy Todd Haley’s game plan.While he appears to be progressing, Mayfield hasn’t handled a live game situation against a defense specifically designed to defeat his team’s offensive tendencies [url=http://www.clevelandbrownsteamonline.com]www.clevelandbrownsteamonline.com[/url] , and his own. The main way to overcome that obstacle is to play, sure, but was Sunday against Pittsburgh the best opportunity for him to start and to succeed?The weather was awful, including swirling winds and persistent rain showers. It wasn’t a passing friendly environment, and Taylor fared about as you’d expect under the conditions. OK, maybe he was a little worse.We’re not going to debate the merits of starting a rookie quarterback from his first game, mainly because there are valid arguments on each side, and every player is different.But I’ll say this, I’m not as sure as many that Mayfield would have made a significant difference in this particular game, whether or not he was prepared to be the starter or not. That isn’t to say he won’t and can’t help the Browns be better offensively, but maybe it’s best to let him keep learning from Taylor in order to ensure he’s ready when his number is called. That’s true whether that time is next week, half-way through the season, or next year.If Taylor continues to struggle, and the Browns can’t play competitive football offensively, there's at least a conversation that needs to happen as to his progress and whether the organization believes it’s time to start his career.That time wasn’t in Week 1, and it probably didn’t matter as far as the game’s outcome. Things could have also gone even worse with a rookie starting his first game in a torrential downpour, so keep that in mind.This is a very simple poll, requiring only a “yes” or “no” response, but I encourage you to support your choice in the comments below if you’re so inclined.