At this time last year, the Cleveland Browns were the hottest team in the NFL. Quarterback Baker Mayfield had broken the rookie passing touchdown record, new head coach Freddie Kitchens – who was thought to be responsible for the team’s offensive success over the second half of 2018 – had a great relationship with Cleveland’s franchise QB. General manager John Dorsey traded for superstar wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. The Browns were finally back, and there was plenty of Super Bowl talk, and not just from the team.
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Then the 2019 campaign actually kicked off, and Cleveland finished 6-10, with a loss to the hapless Cincinnati Bengals capping the most disappointing season since the franchise’s 1999 return. Mayfield threw 21 interceptions and received much of the blame for the disaster of a season. Let’s take a look at his sophomore campaign, and why he’s poised to bounce back in a huge way.
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Mayfield’s basic stats don’t look great. The Browns went 6-10 with him as the starter, and he completed just 317 of 534 passes (59.4%) for 3,827 yards, 22 touchdowns, and 21 interceptions. Despite starting three more games than he did as a rookie, he threw for only 98 more yards, his completion percentage dropped by 4.4%, he threw for five fewer scores and threw seven more picks.
But basic stats rarely tell the entire story, and they certainly don’t in this situation. Mayfield was better than his numbers would suggest, and with the rash of improvements around him, there is plenty of reason to be optimistic moving forward. Let’s first examine what Mayfield struggled with last season.