BEREA — Ravens defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale went to the Hall of Fame in order to prepare his players for the matchup Sunday with rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield and the Browns.
“I already told the defense this — I think Baker Mayfield is this generation’s Brett Favre or John Elway, if you will,” Martindale told reporters Thursday in Baltimore. “This guy knows where he wants to go with the ball, and he’s very accurate, has a quick release.
“He’s really playing well. Obviously he’s playing well because they scored 42 points last week against Oakland, and they are the top five of scoring offense (actually, tied for 10th). So I think he’s done a nice job filling in, and it seems like they have more rhythm with him as a rookie, every play he’s in there.”
Mayfield has played six quarters and has already been compared to Drew Brees, Favre and Elway. At this rate, Otto Graham, Joe Montana and Tom Brady might be next.
Mayfield came off the bench to lead a 21-17 comeback win over the Jets in his NFL debut. The Browns lost 45-42 in overtime in Oakland on Sunday in his first start. He’s 36-for-64 (59.4 percent) for 496 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions, two fumbles, three sacks and an 81.3 rating.
Martindale likes Mayfield’s playmaking and said his confidence is the separator.
“Obviously you’re talking about two Hall of Famers when you say that,” he said of the Favre and Elway comparison. “But the kid’s confidence and swag — if you will, nowadays, right? When he comes out there, he thinks he’s standing on top of a mountain, and he’s making plays to show that he’s standing on top of the mountain.
“He can throw the ball in tight windows, and he’s not afraid to do it. That’s the biggest thing that I see on the kid.”
Browns offensive coordinator Todd Haley noted after Mayfield’s debut a lot of people had him headed to the Hall of Fame, so Martindale just fell in line.
“He is carving a bust?” Haley said. “I will hold my stance. I am excited about a lot of the things that he is doing. This week will be a real test. We will know a lot more come Sunday evening.”
The Ravens have the third-ranked scoring defense (16.2 points a game) and are second overall (275.8 yards a game). They’re fourth against the run (82.5) and fourth against the pass (193.2).
Haley wants Mayfield to continue what he did against the Raiders.
“He did a lot of good things,” he said. “He made good decisions throughout the day. The ball came out quick for the most part throughout the day, which increases our margin of error and allows playmakers to make plays.”
The Ravens have Pro Bowlers at each level of the defense and Mayfield must pay particular attention to free safety Eric Weddle, a five-time Pro Bowler who is adept at disguising coverages.
“He’s a good quarterback, makes good decisions, has a live arm, moves around the pocket well, extends plays, came in against the Jets in a tough situation and played well,” Weddle said in Baltimore. “They put up some points. They have talented players, and we have to be on our game against their whole offense. They have weapons. They have a great group of running backs, talented running backs, talented wide receivers, great O-line, so we have our hands full this week.”
Mayfield will have to be careful with the ball after the four turnovers against the Raiders. But the first interception came when receiver Antonio Callaway slipped and the ball went off his hands, and Haley took the blame for the second one at the end of regulation because he added a tempting deep route by Callaway to the play call.
“Really, that is not fair to do to a young guy,” Haley said. “Somebody like Baker, he wants to score every play. He does not want to check it down a whole bunch. We do not want to be each other’s own worst enemy. He is aggressive-minded so I have to keep that in mind in certain situational football.
“I have been sick about it for a week because I wish that I had not done what I had done because I think that put him in an unfair position. I have let him know that and the guys.”