Q: I’m assuming that, 13 games into his career, Baker Mayfield isn’t a finished product. What are some aspects of his game that you want to see improve over the course of this season?
A: Mayfield has been asked about this several times during training camp and the preseason, and always talked about cutting down on sacks and interceptions. He was sacked 22 times in his first seven games last year before taking only three over the final seven. His interceptions were evenly distributed, with seven in the first seven games and seven in the final seven.
Obviously I agree with Mayfield that those are key areas for him, as well as any quarterback. I would also add getting better if he’s forced to remain in the pocket.
Mayfield’s lowest passer rating of last season (52.6) came against the Chargers, who were determined to limit his scrambling through a controlled pass rush. Mayfield is dangerous when he escapes, and the Chargers took that away. He finished 22-for-46 with a touchdown and two interceptions in a 38-14 loss. Yes, Hue Jackson and Todd Haley were still running the show, so the game plan and in-game adjustments may have been the problem. But defensive coordinators had all offseason to study Mayfield in a search for flaws, and I’d expect some to try the Chargers’ game plan.
The final area is recognizing all the complicated blitzes from different defenses. Teammates say Mayfield showed improvement during camp and the preseason, so that’s a good sign. This is an area that can separate the great quarterbacks from the good ones, and Mayfield has the on-field intelligence to become a master.
Q: Who are the inactives going to be?
A: I love this exercise. But Week 1’s always tough.
My guesses: linebacker Sione Takitaki, receiver KhaDarel, quarterback Garrett Gilbert, tight end Ricky Seals-Jones, offensive lineman Wyatt Teller, safety Sheldrick Redwine and defensive end Chad Thomas.
Q: Can the NFL flex the Browns-Patriots game Oct. 27 to Sunday night so early in the season?
A: Yes. NBC can begin flexing games Week 5, so Cleveland’s potential matchup with Patriots receivers Antonio Brown and Josh Gordon is in play. It’s unusual for such a move to be made so early in the year, but NBC may make an exception for this one.
The big question is whether either Brown or Gordon will still be on the team, or eligible, by then. I don’t trust them.
Q: Why is there no logo in the middle of the field?
A: Just a choice by the organization. This is at least the second season without anything at midfield, after years with a giant orange helmet. The Browns have decided to keep it simple.