What's Really Holding Back Baker Mayfield and the Browns?

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Johnny Burke

October 26th, 2018

Since Baker Mayfield threw his first pass for the Cleveland Browns, we’ve witnessed a wild ride of hope and despair from The Land. Baker’s QB Rating of 39.9 over the course of four starts is an all-time low for the QB stretching back to his first days at Texas Tech and through his career at Oklahoma. What Baker has provided the Cleveland Browns is two victories, which is one more win than the Browns have had prior to his arrival.  The question moving forward for the Browns and Mayfield is whether or not the relationship is good for either side, and how exactly the Browns are going to size up their attempt at building a winning program.

The theme of the NFL in 2018 is to build from the QB down and establish the ability to generate points first. In the AFC North specifically, offense is a necessity. The Triple B’s (well, Double B’s as of now) in Pittsburgh are dynamite, the Bengals bring big-play ability through Boyd, Eifert, Mixon, and Green. Baltimore naturally balances each side of the ball. Defense is a premium and well worth the investment, but Jacksonville is proving to us that defense with nobody worth their weight under center isn’t going to make too many big waves.

"Until this team can establish an offensive line that can hold its own against even the most average of NFL defenses they won’t be able to make a splash no matter who is at QB."

Speaking of centers, let’s discuss the offensive line in Cleveland. We know that building from QB down is the most effective way of building a franchise in this National Football League. What comes next is debatable, but the offensive line is widely regarded as the next building block. This is an area where Cleveland hasn't poured enough cement, and their foundation is shaky because of it. The Browns lead the league in being sacked this season with 31 hits on their QB so far this year. Following them are a handful of miserable teams in the likes of the 49ers (27), Texans (26), Bills (26), and Giants (24). Baker, by the way, makes up for 18 of these sacks sharing the other 13 with Tyrod Taylor.

The tale of Baker Mayfield and the 2018 Browns really ends right there. They have playmakers at the receiver spot and Baker Mayfield has done a solid job getting them out of some bad spots by distributing the ball to Njoku and Landry. Until this team can establish an offensive line that can hold its own against even the most average of NFL defenses they won’t be able to make a splash no matter who the quarterback is. A rookie under center is enough of a handicap, but being sacked on 10% of pass attempts is enough to override the precision throws, aggressive downfield strikes, and extended plays with his feet.

Think about this: in 2015 the Cincinnati Bengals went 12-4 in the regular season. Andy Dalton was sacked a total of 20 times over the course of 13 games before being injured. Andy Dalton, the poster boy of mediocrity in the NFL, went 12-4 with a cast of playmakers on offense and an OL that kept him upright more often than not. Baker Mayfield’s career trajectory looks like the St. Louis arch over top of Andy Dalton, but it doesn’t mean a thing if he can’t stay in the pocket and make plays. The coaching staff in Cleveland has until 2022 to acquire the necessary pieces via draft and free agency on the offensive line. Hue Jackson spent all offseason acquiring skill players and surely one day it’ll pay off. Right now, the disparities along the offensive line is what's holding Baker Mayfield and the Browns from really competing at an elite level. Until then, they're just the Browns with more expectations on their shoulders.

Simple as that.

The Cleveland Browns are +8.0 road dogs against the AFC North rival Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday in Week 8 NFL action!