BEREA — Baker Mayfield threw two touchdown passes. He impressed with his poise in the pocket. He rose to the occasion in his preseason debut, a win over the New York Giants on Thursday.
He didn’t make a move on the depth chart.
“Nothing’s changed. Tyrod Taylor is our starter,” coach Hue Jackson said Sunday. “Baker Mayfield is a young, talented player. We have a bright, bright future here with that young man.”
Taylor remains solidified as the starting quarterback despite a steady progression from Mayfield. Taylor just happened to go 5-for-5 against the Giants for 99 yards, a touchdown and a perfect 158.3 passer rating.
“He was accurate, he pushed the ball down the field, he’s smart, his progressions went smoothly,” quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese said. “Those things give you confidence.”
Mayfield, the Heisman Trophy winner at Oklahoma, will always generate hype, and his performance got social media humming. He went 11-for-20 for 212 yards, two touchdowns, a sack and a 125.4 rating.
“He did a great job. I’m really excited to see what’s next,” Zampese said. “It’s always good to see what you have live. That was our first time for all of these guys with a chance to get hit in the side of the head, what are you going to do now and those guys showed well.”
Then he pumped the brakes.
“He’s had 22 preseason NFL snaps,” Zampese said, referring to the pass calls in the 45 snaps Mayfield was on the field. “He has a long way to go and we’re encouraged with where he’s at right now.”
Mayfield has yet to take a snap with the first-team offense after more than two weeks of training camp. Led by general manager John Dorsey and Jackson, the organization is committed to bringing him along slowly.
“We have our plan, we’re sticking to it and when it changes we’ll all know,” Zampese said.
The March trade for Taylor made the plan feasible.
“I think he’s going to be very successful for us this year, which is the only year that matters,” Zampese said. “And I like where he’s at, I like where he’s going, I love his leadership, the way he’s aggressively going about being the leader of this team, completing balls and moving us down the field.”
Jackson is quick to acknowledge Mayfield as the future of the franchise, and Taylor is in the final year of his contract. But Zampese bristled when a reporter suggested Taylor’s only keeping the seat warm.
“That’s not the way we look at it at all,” he said. “He’s our guy, and that’s what he is. And to keep bringing it up is the only reason why anybody put a cloud in anybody’s head.
“So let’s get on with him being the guy and let’s get on to playing and winning and doing what we’re supposed to do and what we’re here for.”
Mayfield lurking behind him on the depth chart and on the practice field is an interesting dynamic for Taylor, who started the last three years with the Bills but wasn’t able to establish himself among the NFL elite.
“None of that really matters,” Zampese said. “Tyrod just needs to be here and do what he’s doing and win games. Win, handle your job and everything else will be just fine.”
The organization expects Taylor to have a positive impact on Mayfield off the field.
“Tyrod sets the bar for consistency. There’s no doubt about it,” Zampese said. “There’s no man I can think of more consistent than him — when he gets here, how he is when he’s here, taking care of his body, study habits, leading the team on the field. The bar is set very high. It’s fantastic.”
Taylor went 22-21 with the Bills and ended their long playoff drought last season but they didn’t want to commit to him for the long term. Zampese sees a bright future.
“I think it’s the tip of the iceberg for Tyrod. I think he’s an untapped player in the league,” he said. “He’s done some really nice things so far in the league and I think it’s only going to get better.”
Zampese said it took him “about a minute” to take a liking to Taylor when they met in the spring, adding you can “always feel” his leadership. He praised his daily preparation and command of the no-huddle offense that led to a quick touchdown against the Giants.
“He looked comfortable, he had command and the guys responded,” Zampese said.
Mayfield has made a smooth transition to life under center and has done a better job staying in the pocket and making the right decisions with the ball. Several times against the Giants he made a subtle move that led to a completion.
“I was really excited about it,” Zampese said. “In spring we saw some times where he was running around, and there was more settled, in-the-pocket play from him, which is more of an NFL-style game and he’s really coming around to it.”